Props to markets, again.
Much the same technology being used to get at shale oil is now being used to access natural gas. And the results are astonishing.
Equally dramatic is the effect on U.S. reserves. Proven reserves have risen to 245 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2008 from 177 Tcf in 2000, despite having produced nearly 165 Tcf during those years. The recent increase in estimated U.S. gas reserves by the Potential Gas Committee, representing both academic and industry experts, is in itself equivalent to more than half of the total proved reserves of Qatar, the new LNG powerhouse. With more drilling experience, U.S. estimates are likely to rise dramatically in the next few years. At current levels of demand, the U.S. has about 90 years of proven and potential supply—a number that is bound to go up as more and more shale gas is found.Along with shale oil and clean coal, natural gas is an energy game-changer.
To have the resource base suddenly expand by this much is a game changer. But what is getting changed?
It transforms the debate over generating electricity. The U.S. electric power industry faces very big questions about fuel choice and what kind of new generating capacity to build. In the face of new climate regulations, the increased availability of gas will likely lead to more natural gas consumption in electric power because of gas's relatively lower CO2 emissions. Natural gas power plants can also be built more quickly than coal-fired plants.
Some areas like Pennsylvania and New York, traditionally importers of the bulk of their energy from elsewhere, will instead become energy producers. It could also mean that more buses and truck fleets will be converted to natural gas. Energy-intensive manufacturing companies, which have been moving overseas in search of cheaper energy in order to remain globally competitive, may now stay home.
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