There has been a sea change in public attitudes toward natural gas. Not so long ago natural gas was widely viewed as a “bridge fuel” to a future of clean, renewable energy. Now, amid a shale gas boom, many energy analysts regard it as a “foundation fuel” that can power America’s economy in efficient, affordable and environmentally responsible ways for the rest of this century, and possibly beyond.
It is by far the cleanest fossil fuel. Gas produces 50 percent less CO2 than coal2 and 30 percent less CO2 than oil, while also producing significantly less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and harmful particulate matter. The more we burn natural gas in the place of oil or coal the less we put greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Natural gas is also highly efficient. When used directly in America’s homes and businesses, natural gas loses just 8 percent of its useable energy in its journey from the point-of-origin (wellhead) to the point-of-use (burner tip). By contrast, electricity loses approximately 68 percent of its useable energy during the same journey from origin to use.
Thanks to the huge increase in natural gas now being produced from shale rock formations, natural gas is becoming even more abundant. America is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world, with an estimated future supply (reserves plus resources) of approximately 2,170 trillion cubic feet. That’s enough to meet America’s energy needs for more than 85 years. These estimates are based just on current technology. As new production technologies are
developed, this resource base will only grow.
Because natural gas is abundant domestically, it is very affordable. In 2012, oil cost about $15 per MMBtu (million British thermal units) on average, while natural gas cost less than $4 per MMBtu.5 In recent years, natural gas consumers have literally saved millions of dollars on their energy bills. With all of this going for it, more and more American consumers are turning to natural gas for their home heating, water heating, cooking and other energy needs.