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(NECN: Marlie MacLean, Augusta, Maine) - A push is on in Maine to expand access to natural gas supplies.
The cost of natural gas is well below the cost of a gallon of home heating oil, which is currently $3.78. That price differential has Mainers asking how they can tap into the natural gas pipeline.
A $20 million project now underway in Augusta will provide access to residents and businesses in Maine's capital city. The Vice President of Maine Natural Gas says at current prices, a homeowner can expect to save up to 50 percent on their monthly heating bill if they switch from oil to natural gas.
Many communities, like Yarmouth, are working with utilities to try and offer residents and businesses the option of switching to gas. Town Manager Nat Tupper says in order to compete for economic development, they have to have competetive energy prices.
Tupper says utilities are now willing to look at making an investment into more rural communities because they are confident that enough people will make the switch from oil to natural gas because of the cost savings.
However, there's no guarantee that cost differential between oil and gas will remain so high and the average cost to convert from oil to gas is several thousand dollars.
Plus, a federal agency says Maine's infrastructure for delivering natural gas is inadequate and more demand could tax the system and impact costs.
Still, for many communities, the concerns are outweighed by the potential benefits by offering Mainers the chance to choose how they want to heat their homes.