NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Removing Barriers to Natural Gas Exploration

June 20, 2003

In three years of formulating an energy bill, Congress has not addressed the one serious energy problem we now have -- a shortage of natural gas -- says the Wall Street Journal.

  • In 2001, Americans consumed 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting for 22 percent of the nation's energy use, and demand will increase to 35 trillion cubic feet by 2020.
  • Sen. Jim Jeffords's (I-Vt.) Clean Power Act would cap CO2 emissions by forcing more use of natural gas, and about 90 percent of all proposed new electric generation capacity will be gas-fired.
  • To meet current demand, the United States already imports 15 percent of its natural gas from Canada -- but production there is leveling off.

Yet America is swimming in gas, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates:

  • There are 1,400 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas resources in the United States -- enough to last decades.
  • Regulated federal lands are estimated to contain 59 percent of the gas left to be found in the United States; five producing basins in the Rocky Mountains alone have enough to serve 10 million American households for 76 years.
  • However, much of that gas is off-limits or too expensive to recover because of restrictive environmental rules and lawsuits.

The House energy bill passed in April included faster permits and less red tape for drilling on federal lands -- as well as opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Lifting the offshore moratorium and reducing lawsuits that stymie drilling would also help, says the Journal.

Source: Editorial, "Unnatural Gas Shortage," Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2003.

For text (WSJ subscription required),,SB105606991984236600,00.html


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