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Reason Foundation

Americans Remain Supportive of Natural Gas

Adam Peshek
March 23, 2012, 12:21pm

Despite attempts by environmental activists like Josh Fox and his movie Gasland, American support for natural gas slightly rose in 2012, according to a new Harris poll.

Sixty-six percent of Americans think that the benefits derived from natural gas outweigh the risks, compared to only 17% thinking the risks outweigh the benefits (17% unsure). This is a slight increase from 2011, when 64% of Americans supported natural gas.

A majority of Americans from every age, regional and political group thought the advantages of natural gas outweighed risk. Support came from all political affiliations, with 74% of Republicans in support, 62% of Democrats, and 69% of independents.

Without a doubt, the newest, most-affordable, game-changing innovation in the energy field is the adaptation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling in natural gas extraction. In the past decade we have developed technology that allows drillers to extract the same amount of natural gas from one well as they used to be able to get from eight wells. That is an eight-fold increase in efficiency, and does not even begin to discuss how the technology has allowed us to open up vast deposits that were once too difficult to reach.

Not only do these advances make energy cheaper, it cleans up the environment. As I noted in a recent blog:

A gold rush of shale gas plus the ability to get eight-times the amount of energy from one well has caused gas supplies to skyrocket, driving down prices. With low prices, companies are fleeing the historically inexpensive and dirty coal-fired plants and maximizing natural gas plants, which emit roughly half the greenhouse gases. According to the study, the U.S. emitted nearly 9% less CO2 (the chief greenhouse gas) in 2009 than it did in 2008, mostly because gas prices dropped from $12 per million British thermal units in June 2008 to less than $4 per MMBtu in September 2009. During that time, the cost of generating electricity from natural gas plants fell an average of about 4 cents per kilowatt. With avarage natural gas prices at $2.30 MMBtu today, it is safe to say this trend will continue. Utilities are shutting down coal-fired plants at record pace and replacing them with new or expanded gas-fired plants.


Adam Peshek is Research Associate


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