10. The Natural Gas Swindle

In "The Natural Gas Swindle," author/researcher Robert Sherrill reports illegal and unthical activities of gas companies, company connections with government agencies, and motives for creating a natural gas shortage. Illegalities mentioned include the evasion of seven major companies to produce natural gas supply information subpoenaed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the 100% increase in prices for new gas from 1972 to 1974, and the ownership of gas stock by nineteen key officials of the Federal Power Commission (FPC). Also noted is the failure of the FPC to issue injunctions against companies "sitting on" federal land leases, to report that gas companies greatly underestimated gas reserves, and to abide by its own mandate. The author contends that current shortages are "scare tactics" the companies are using to force deregulation of interstate gas supplies -- a legislative act which would produce windfall profits for the natural gas producing companies. Sherrill's article, suggesting the "gas shortage" was a hoax, appeared in January, 1976. In April, 1977, following one of the coldest winters in history which saw the public suffer unemployment, closed schools, and exorbitantly high heating costs, author/researcher Bethany Weidner repeated much of what Sherrill had said. Weidner also concluded the primary motive was the gas industry's goal of price deregulation. The lack of general public knowledge of how it was being "swindled" by the natural gas industry qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best censored" stories of 1976.

SOURCES: The Nation, January 24, 1976, p 70, "The Natural Gas Swindle," by Robert Sherrill; The Progressive, April, 1977, p 19, "What Natural Gas Shortage?" by Bethany Weidner.