I become more convinced daily that the salvation to our energy difficulties lies in greatly expanded use of natural gas. As gas proponents point out with regulatory, it's cleaner-burning than coal or oil, and it's ours for the finding.

Beyond that, we continue to find ever-larger amounts of this hydrocarbon, whether in shale rock formations or in places like Alaska's North Slope. For now, the latter area has taken center stage as two rival groups joust regarding how and at what likely expense they'd undertake a major pipeline project for the transportation of gas from the North Slope to the Lower 48.

On Wednesday, the powers-that-be behind Denali, a child of ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and BP (NYSE: BP), stated that their approach would carry a price tag of about $35 billion. It would become operative near the start of the next decade and would be capable of transporting 4.5 billion cubic feet per day. Denali is proceeding without promises of Alaskan state financial aid or other assistance.

The competing project is being proposed under the auspices of Calgary's TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP), along with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM). As I've noted previously, the latter pair has bid for and received a license from the state, along with a promise of up to $500 million toward costs. As with Denali, it would be operative around 2020.

Actually, the TransCanada proposal comes with two options. The first involves a line from the Slope to Canada, where it would hook up with the company's other lines. This longer version would likely cost $32 billion to $41 billion. The second would cost $20 billion to $26 billion, with a liquefaction plant in Valdez, which would then facilitate transport of the gas by ship.

However, not everyone is wholeheartedly behind even building a line. Larry Persily, the federal coordinator of the project, has urged Alaskan lawmakers to work together to make the pipeline happen. However, former Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens has pointed to the shale gas being produced by the likes of Chesapeake (NYSE: CHK) and Devon (NYSE: DVN) as resulting in an insufficient North American market for his state's gas. Instead, he's called for its shipment to Asia. Beyond that, Gov. Sean Parnell has extended invitations to a Chinese delegation to visit Alaska, obviously with much the same idea in mind.

For my money, a decision on the project could ultimately be long and drawn out, thanks to a mix of lobbying and political wrangling. In the meantime, I nevertheless urge Fools to consider making solid participating majors like Exxon and BP well represented in their portfolios.

ChesapeakeEnergy is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does welcome your comments, questions, or tips on the Masters. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.