A year ago, energy prices (natural gas, petroleum, etc.), were near some of the highest prices of the decade. Nationally, natural gas had exceeded USD 11.00 per thousand cubic feet for industrial users and peaked at USD 13.07 in July, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.
A significant economic downturn and excess production of natural gas have reduced demand, increased reserves, and brought down prices. This is good for the paper industry, which already uses significant amounts of natural gas. Newly available and abundant natural gas deposits, thanks to further exploration and advances in drilling technology, are partly to blame, and thank.
According to a recent (30 April 2009) Wall Street Journal report, and numerous Web postings, the United States has more than 2,200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas available for extraction, “enough to satisfy nearly 100 years of current U.S. natural-gas demand.”
A potential hazard of having abundant supplies of a particular fuel/energy source, especially if the price is competitive, is that demand could increase, potentially increasing the price and limiting supplies.
What happens with this abundance of natural gas will depend partly on Congress as it legislates alternative energy bills and regulations to limit climate change and harmful combustion emissions.
Many favor natural gas as an alternative to coal for industrial uses and electrical generation. A smaller cadre, including oil and energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, is promoting natural gas as an alternative to diesel and gasoline to power motor vehicles, reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil, to serve as a bridge to alternative energy sources that will become available. (Various municipalities are using natural gas to power buses and other vehicles, but even some environmental groups doubt the practicality of widespread conversion of automobiles to run on natural gas.)
Natural gas is seen as a likely bridge from industrial use of coal and petroleum to alternative energy fuels and power sources. Of approximately 400 power plants expected to be built in the United States in the next few years, more than 90% will reportedly be natural gas-fueled.
Part of the beauty of natural gas is that most, if not all, of the U.S. demand can be satisfied domestically, without having to import supplies. It’s also a cleaner fuel that produces roughly half the carbon dioxide that coal does when burned.