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The only certainty about today's natural-gas pricing chaos: Prices will continue flaring upward. Several congressmen are pushing for a natural-gas price freeze to protect consumers. But even freeze supporters admit that the proposal has virtually no chance of becoming law. The problem: Natural gas is underpriced compared with competing -fuels. A freeze now would be a short-term solution that some say will reduce the incentive to produce gas and help guarantee supply shortages and an inevitable price explosion in the future. The White House may try to break the logjam by setting up a bipartisan committee to study the issue. What comes next?

Short-term: continued easing of federal controls under the 1978 Natural Gas Policy Act. Eventually, some expect the committee - if it's set up - to say that consumers must accept gradual increases now or explosive jumps if price corrections are postponed.

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