Next to oil, natural gas is the most powerful and versatile energy source known to man. More than half of the homes in the United States are heated with natural gas. A large percentage of Americans also use natural gas to cook their food and heat their water. Most people don't know that natural gas is a raw material used to produce petrochemicals, plastics, paints, and a wide variety of other products. In the last decade natural gas has become the fuel of choice for the new generation of electric power plants. This fossil fuel source has become popular because it burns clean and up until recent years it has been relatively inexpensive. However, from 2000 to 2005, as natural gas supplies were stretched to meet demand, the price nearly tripled from $3 to $8.75 per million BTU. Another reason for the price spike is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for oil and natural gas companies to gain access to new areas for development. A 2003 study by the Department of Interior revealed that nearly 40 percent of the natural gas reserves on federal land in the Intermountain West have some barrier that prevents development. Higher demand and more access restrictions are now forcing America to import 15 percent of its natural gas. These pressures are not likely to ease up soon, if at all. The alternative is to import more liquefied natural gas (LNG), but this is also a problem because costal communities do not want an LNG terminal nearby.


Natural gas is as close to an ideal energy source as can be found on the planet. It exists in great abundance, burns clean and is tremendously versatile. Of course drilling for natural gas creates some environmental impacts, but those impacts are very small when compared to the enormous benefit that we receive. It could be persuasively argued that in a cost/benefit comparison with all other energy sources, natural gas would come out on top.

CARE enthusiastically supports the continued exploration and development of natural gas.

  • Approximately 23 percent of the energy consumption of the United States comes from natural gas
  • More than one-half of the homes in the United States use natural gas as their primary heating fuel
  • More than 62 million homes use natural gas to fuel stoves, furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers and other household appliances
  • Natural gas is also used to roast coffee, smoke meats, bake bread and as well as for many other practical processes
  • Nearly 99 percent of the natural gas we use is produced in North America, 83 percent is produced domestically and 16 percent is imported from Canada
  • Natural gas provides approximately 19 percent of our electric power
  • U.S. industries get more than 40 percent of their primary energy from natural gas
  • Industry depends on natural gas because it has thousands of uses. It is used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and much more
  • Americans consume more than 63 billion cubic feet every day, which is about 23 trillion cubic feet annually
  • The Department of Energy reports that natural gas consumption has increased by 35 percent in the past decade and is to grow by 45% in the decade ahead
  • Only seven states produce more natural gas than they consume: New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Alaska, and Alabama
  • According to the National Petroleum Council the Intermountain West contains an estimated 383 Tcf of natural gas, which is approximately 26 percent of the technically recoverable reserves in the U.S.
  • More than half (52 percent) of land in the Intermountain West is managed by federal and state governments
  • Approximately 36 percent of federal land in the Intermountain West is not available for leasing
  • About one quarter of federal land in the Intermountain West has moderate to severe lease restrictions
  • A typical well takes about 120 days to drill and complete, however in some areas less than half that time is available for drilling because of overlapping restrictions

  • Scientists believe millions of years ago the remains of plants and animals decayed and built up in thick layers. Over time, mud and soil covering the organic material changed to rock, trapping it below. Pressure and heat then transformed the ancient plant and animal remains into fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. The main ingredient in natural gas is methane, a compound composed of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms.
  • Along with methane (typically 73 to 95 percent), natural gas contains ethane and propane.
  • In the early days of oil production natural gas was considered a nuisance. When it came up with the oil the natural gas was simply flared (burned off) at the wellhead. Major flaring sites were sometimes the brightest areas visible in nighttime satellite images. Today, however, the gas is mostly re-injected for later use and to encourage greater oil production.
  • Natural gas is best known as the blue flame that heats food, water and our homes and buildings.
  • Natural gas has become an increasingly popular fuel for electricity generation.
  • It's used as a heat source for industrial processes.
  • Most people are surprised to discover that natural gas is a raw material used to produce petrochemicals, plastics, paints, and a wide variety of other products.
  • Natural gas is the feedstock of choice for hydrogen production. In the production process hydrogen molecules are stripped from a fuel source such as oil, coal, natural gas, or even water. Natural gas is by far the most economical way to produce hydrogen.
  • Natural gas is colorless and in its pure form has no odor.
  • Utility companies add a chemical to natural gas that makes it smell somewhat like rotten eggs so that people will know when there is a leak.

  • Gas turbine and steam generating plants use natural gas. A combined-cycle system is the most efficient. In these facilities fuel is burned in a combustion chamber to produce hot, high-pressure gases that pass directly through a gas turbine, which in turn, powers a generator. While the gasses are still hot, they are sent to a boiler to heat water and produce steam. The steam turns a turbine that is connected to a generator. The steam is then sent to a condenser where it is cooled back into water. The cycle is then repeated as the water is pumped back into the boiler.

  • Natural gas is a highly versatile fuel source used in heating, electricity generation and as a feedstock for important products
  • The United States has significant natural gas deposits, enough to last 60 years and probably longer.
  • Natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuels. It has fewer emissions of sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen than coal or oil, and it has almost no ash particles left after burning.
  • Natural gas is so environmentally friendly that it should be categorized as a "green energy source."
  • The United States has significant natural gas deposits, enough to last 60 years and probably longer.
  • Canada also has a lot of natural gas that can be imported relatively inexpensively.
  • Natural gas is an essential raw material for many common products, such as plastics, fertilizers, paints, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines and explosives.
  • Propane, a popular fuel for backyard barbecue grills, is a byproduct of natural gas.

  • While natural gas burns very clean, it does produce some emissions, including carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas some scientists believe is a primary contributor to global climate change.
  • It is inevitable that in the production, transportation and use of natural gas, small amounts will leak into the atmosphere from wells, storage tanks, pipelines and in businesses and homes.
  • Exploring and drilling for natural gas will always have some impact on land and marine habitats.
  • High demand combined with access restrictions has made natural gas much more expensive and therefore less economically viable. A more than doubling of the price in the price over the past five years has single-handedly revived the coal industry.
  • With shrinking supplies more natural gas usage will cause us to import more from outside North America to LNG terminals.
  • More LNG terminals are already needed, but industry cannot find communities that want them.
  • The supply/demand realities above will translate into high natural gas prices in the foreseeable future.

  • While natural gas is plentiful, many new fields cannot be accessed because of restrictions.
  • The new fields that can be leased are generally more difficult and expensive to access.
  • The Department of Energy is adding five new projects to its natural gas research program. In three initiatives, the DOE is researching how to extract natural gas buried under extremely hard rock formations. Another project is focused on finding/producing gas trapped in hydrates on the ocean floor, and in remote regions of the Arctic. The other two programs will attempt to discover ways to keep low-volume "stripper" gas wells flowing and to boost the volume of "working gas" stored in salt caverns. The success or failure of these programs could have a significant impact on the viability of natural gas in the future.
  • As stated in "Cons," more LNG terminals are already needed, but because of a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality, industry is having great difficulty finding locations
  • Natural gas prices are likely to remain high and continue to rise

Useful Natural Gas Links

  • The American Gas Association
  • The Natural Gas Supply Association
  • The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas
  • El Paso Corporation--A Major Natural Gas Transporter
[Home] [Oil] [Natural Gas] [Coal] [Nuclear] [Renewables] [Search] [Contact Us]
   Copyright 2005 All right reserved. Last Update: 5/14/2010 9:19:37 AM