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Natural gas prices soar; utility rates may follow

By By Sherry Digmon
Advance Staff Writer
Tom Wolfe and Jim Byrd watched natural gas prices rise and continue to rise.
Wolfe is the manager of the Atmore Utilities Department, and Byrd is the CEO and general manager of Southern Pine Electric Cooperative.
Soaring natural gas prices have caused Southern Pine to raise its rates and the Atmore Utilities Department may have to do the same. Wolfe said he hopes that won't be the case.
Natural gas prices are following the basic principle of economics – supply and demand. More electricity power plants are turning from coal to natural gas.
Byrd said the cost of building a facility that is powered by natural gas is much more feasible than building a new coal powered facility. In fact, no coal-powered facilities are under construction in Alabama.
In addition to the old supply and demand factor, deregulation has also played a part in escalating prices.
Byrd said the decision to raise Southern Pine's rates was not an easy one.
Wolfe doesn't want to find out. What has helped keep rates stable in Atmore is lower usage during the summer.