Political and economic impacts of America’s natural gas boom

BY Allconnect | Thu Oct 23, 2014
Political and economic impacts of America’s natural gas boom

Natural gas proponents have long heralded the fuel as a cheaper, cleaner alternative to coal power. Production of natural gas in the United States has been increasing since 2005, and the country's massive gas resources provide America with exciting opportunities. From lowering consumer fuel prices to new foreign policy, the natural gas boom is bound to have an impact on every American's day-to-day life. More information about how natural gas is making waves in the U.S. and abroad can help homeowners to make forward-thinking decisions about utilities and home appliance spending.

Exports and influence
Improvements on "fracking" technology have since made gas production far more efficient, and this innovation has put the U.S. in position to become the world's third largest natural gas provider, according to Bloomberg. The American business sector and federal government have already collaborated to this end, providing authorization for companies to ship their excess stock of natural gas to potential customers worldwide, including Japan and India. Demand for gas in the Asia region as a whole is expected to increase by 36 percent between 2013 and 2020. U.S. natural gas companies are sure to find additional customers as the International Energy Agency predicts natural gas consumption worldwide to increase by 40 percent over the next five years. The United States hopes to ride that increase toward greater influence over the world's natural gas supplies.

New economic opportunities aren't the only international advantage America stands to gain from its expanding natural gas reserves. Increased exports of natural gas may allow the United States to position itself as Europe's newest natural gas resource and subsequently reroute business from the Russian economy, according to Vox. Curbing Moscow's resources is always in the U.S. government's interests, and the potential to do so through natural gas may lead to new regulatory policies that drive additional fracking.

Cost break for consumers
An abundance of U.S. natural gas is great news for natural gas customers, who can expect lower gas prices as winter draws near. Winter typically marks an increase in demand for gas (and subsequently gas prices), but natural gas surge has flipped the script. The cost of natural gas has decreased by almost 10 percent since September 29, according to the Wall Street Journal. The high availability and low cost of natural gas is sure to please consumers in New England. Homeowners caught in the polar vortex saw significant increases to their gas bills as a result of low supply and peak demand. Trends in fossil fuel production are constantly changing, but consumers can look forward to cheap fuel from their natural gas providers in the foreseeable future.

Methane on the rise

Not all good news concerning natural gas is good news. The Energy Collective reports that increased natural gas fracking may have negative impacts on the atmosphere. The natural gas industry's infrastructure is ill equipped to deal with the demand the sector is now experiencing. The amount of natural gas being collected far outpaces the industry's ability to safely package and sell the fuel. The excess gas is vented directly into the atmosphere, resulting in high concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide being released into the ear.

Fuel industries are always hard at work to improve the efficiency of their production process. Additional regulations are likely around the corner if the U.S. is serious about becoming a dominant player in natural gas exports. Furthermore, Vox points out that pollution caused by natural gas is still a far superior option when compared to coal power. Natural gas' status as a cleaner-burning fossil fuel makes it an ideal transitional resource as the country moves closer to implementing renewable energy on a nationwide scale.  

New infrastructure draws ire

Resistance to pipeline construction is a major barrier to expanding the nation's natural gas infrastructure to meet production. This resistance has come in the form of mixed messages from voters, who both are overwhelming in support of domestic natural gas production but also simultaneously wary of the prospect of pipeline construction in their backyards.

For example, a recent public opinion poll showed that almost 70 percent of Pennsylvania residents are in favor ramping up natural gas drilling, reports The Patriot News. However, NJ.com notes that the Keystone State and its neighbor has also been home to several protests against new pipelines, including a recent event in the town of Hopewell, N.J where voters expressed disapproval with a proposed pipeline that would cut through both states. A similar protest event was hosted in the southern Georgia on October 20, according to The Valdosta Daily Times. Protesters plan to meet on a weekly basis to voice their concerns about how the new pipeline could impact their community.

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