Two colleges not sweating high gas prices


Tuesday, February 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- While soaring natural gas prices are causing budget concerns for schools across Oklahoma, two public colleges aren't being hit quite so hard.

Officials at Panhandle State University in Goodwell and Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton say about 80 percent of the natural gas used to heat their schools flows from university-owned wells on campus land.

Panhandle State drilled its gas well at least 50 years ago during a time when such fuel was plentiful and cheaper than dirt, school President John Goodwin said.

Eastern drilled the first of its six wells in 1961 when natural gas was still an inexpensive commodity, said school spokesman Hank Mooney.

"I'd hate to think about what shape we'd be in if we didn't have our well to fall back on," Goodwin said. "The cost increase is hurting a lot of people, including us."

Even with its gas well, Panhandle State is expecting a $100,000 increase in utility costs tied to rising fees for electricity and the commercial gas the school must purchase to supplement its well during peak usage, Goodwin said.

"We may have 80 percent of our gas supplied by our own well, but the remaining 20 percent and the increased electric bills are killing us like anyone else," Goodwin said.

Panhandle State officials don't know exactly how much money their school is saving the state by using its own natural gas well, but Goodwin's best guess is about $150,000 a year, he said. That's how much it would cost if the school had to purchase its own heating fuel.

When the well cannot keep up in peak times during the coldest winter days, Panhandle State buys supplemental fuel from West Texas Gas Co.

Eastern Oklahoma State College uses natural gas heating for its 12 campus buildings and probably saves the state about the same amount as Panhandle State, Mooney said.

He said Eastern also uses natural gas for air conditioning six of the buildings.