NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Natural Gas Supplies Locked Up

May 21, 2001

Locked up under the land and coastal areas of the United States is a supply of natural gas equal to 10 years consumption in the U.S., according to a December 1999 report from the National Petroleum Council (NPC). This supply is off-limits to exploration and drilling due to various regulations and moratoria.

The amount of natural gas locked up is 213 trillion cubic feet (tcf), estimates the NPC, which advises the Energy Department. The U.S. uses about 22 tcf of natural gas per year, and consumption is expected to climb to at least 30 tcf per year over the next decade.

  • In the Rocky Mountain region alone, 137 tcf are off limits -- equal to 40 percent of all the natural gas believed to be located in that area.
  • In addition, 52 tcf of natural gas are located off the both the East and West coasts -- none of which can be drilled because of bans in those areas.
  • And another 24 tcf are blocked because of bans on drilling in portions of the Gulf of Mexico.

In addition, President Clinton's last minute national monument declarations, and the U.S. Forest Service's plans to bar road building in millions of acres of national forests, effectively locked up more supplies. That action alone put 10 tcf more of natural gas out of reach, according to industry data.

Source: John W. Merline, "Why Natural Gas Problems Loom," Consumers' Research, March 2001.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues