The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Natural Gas = Game Changer

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted November 3, 2009

When energy consultant Daniel Yergin calls unconventional natural gas a "game changer," people listen. And in today's Wall Street Journal op-ed, Yergin and his colleague Robert Ineson of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (IHS CERA) say that the ability to produce natural gas from shale could "transform the debate over generating electricity."

As Yergin and Ineson explain, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have led to a dramatic rise in natural gas supplies in the United States. "At current levels of demand," they say, "the U.S. has about 90 years of proven and potential supply--a number that is bound to go up as more shale gas is found."

They also say that natural gas emits less carbon than other fuels, making it a very attractive power source in a carbon-constrained world. This fact plus the sudden abundance of U.S. natural gas from shale could encourage the construction of gas-fired power plants, turn Marcellus-shale states including Pennsylvania and New York into gas exporters, and facilitate the development of renewable energy sources.

Yergin and Ineson say it remains to be seen whether the rest of the world will rush to develop unconventional natural gas. But they add, "what has begun as the shale gas in the U.S. could end up being an increasingly powerful wind that blows through the world economy."