During the past few years, the United States has received an unexpected energy windfall: put simply, we have a lot more natural gas than we previously thought. This realization is altering America’s energy future in a fundamental way. For many years, the conventional wisdom was that natural gas would play an important role as a bridge fuel but then fade away as the U.S. and the world turned to renewable sources of energy later in the 21st century.
Recent discoveries of enormous gas reserves in the United States offer a very different vision for the future of natural gas. Expanding domestic production will resolve the primary issue that is presently keeping natural gas from becoming the dominant energy resource in the U.S.: the inadequacy of supplies to guarantee long-term availability at reasonable and predictable prices. Yet a recent report by the MIT Energy Initiative estimates that U.S. reservoirs may contain enough natural gas to meet demand for 90 to 100 years at current consumption levels with much less price volatility.
New technology enabling the extraction of natural gas from shale has been called the most significant energy innovation this century; this discovery has spurred the expansion of U.S. natural gas production. Technology developed primarily in the United States has made the dramatic expansion of U.S. natural gas resources possible. Further technical improvements may enable an even larger expansion of our natural gas resources. ExxonMobil, a company nearly synonymous with oil, now predicts that natural gas will be the fastest growing major fuel source worldwide through 2030. Clearly, something very significant has happened in the world of energy.