Natural gas prices fell on Thursday to their lowest level since 2002 after an Energy Department (www.doe.gov) report showed that the amount of gas in storage had hit a record high for this time of year, according to a report by The New York Times (www.nytimes.com).

Prices have fallen over the past year from a peak of $13 per thousand cubic feet last summer to $3 per cubic feet on Thursday. The lower price of natural gas has benefited utilities and factories in lower operation costs, according to the Times.

The Times reports that gas executives are hopeful that the lower price of natural gas will help them make a better case in the U.S. Senate when it takes up energy and climate change legislation later this year. According to the Times, gas companies want federal incentives to sway utilities to switch to gas from coal, and they want more government entities and businesses to convert their diesel bus and truck fleets to compressed natural gas.

The House version of the legislation, passed in June, disappointed industry leaders who contended that coal interests got a better deal than they did, even though gas is a cleaner fuel, reports the Times.

To read the full New York Times report on this story, click here.