In a few short years, the U.S. has become a major player in the field of natural gas, the cleaner energy alternative to oil and coal. Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a controversial drilling technique that extracts natural gas from shale rock — the U.S. has a surplus of the resource. As a result, natural gas in the U.S. has gotten cheaper and cheaper, plunging to $2 per 1,000 cubic feet for the first time in a decade. When you consider that the same quantity costs more than $9 cost in Europe and nearly $16 in Asia, it's clear we have an eminently exportable commodity that could give the sluggish U.S. economy a serious boost. Could natural gas become a driving force for the economy?
Natural gas is the best way forward: The U.S. is badly in need of a "new industry that will create wealth and jobs," says Jason Trennert at Forbes. The most obvious route would be "to take advantage of the vast natural resources with which America has been blessed." The U.S. currently has 22 billion barrels in proven reserves of natural gas, but that could rise to a heady 400 billion with the use of fracking and other technologies. A "vibrant" natural gas export industry would solve many of the country's problems: It would also "employ a lot of people, and help to restore the middle class."
"NatGas exports best best to bring America back"
It won't solve all of America's economic problems: Natural gas has "clear" benefits for the economy, but it's not a magic wand, says Gregory Meyer at Britain's Financial Times. Even best-case-scenarios can't change the fact that natural gas will likely represent just a small portion of the U.S.'s gigantic, $15 trillion economy. And it's folly to hitch a country's hopes to a speculative market like energy, in which prices fluctuate all the time. "Gas has always been an explosive commodity. Handle predictions of a calm future with care."
"Shale gas unlikely to reignite U.S. economy"
The energy future doesn't belong to fossil fuels at all: "Somewhere in a garage in America or in a basement in China, some teenager is working on a low-cost solar cell and battery that will make her a billionaire and reduce the cost of energy for everyone," says Steven Cohen at The Huffington Post. When that happens, energy companies "will either get with the program, or get wiped out." In addition to being environmentally damaging, natural gas and other fossil fuels will never be anything more than a short-term solution to a longer-term problem of finding a sustainable energy source for the entire planet.
"The real energy future"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- 11 facts yü should know about the umlaut
Subscribe to the Week