Natural gas

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Natural gas is a traditional energy resource composed of gaseous hydrocarbons, the primary compound being methane.[1]

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the recent surge in natural gas production in the United States will have significant, positive effects on the industrial and manufacturing sectors of the economy, especially from 2014 to 2030. Natural gas is used to generate electricity and produce heat, and the industrial and manufacturing sectors are expected to benefit from lower prices. Additionally, chemicals derived from natural gas, such as hydrocarbon gas liquids are used to produce plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The lower prices of these goods are expected to also benefit the industrial and manufacturing sectors.[2][3]

Proponents of natural gas argue the fuel should be a "bridge fuel," leading the United States into a new energy economy, where energy is produced cleanly and cheaply. They argue further that natural gas should be used more because it produces fewer carbon emissions than other traditional energy resources.
Opponents of natural gas argue that the methane emissions produced by natural gas are more harmful to environment than proponents of natural gas claim, and that an increasing reliance on natural gas will only extend the use of fossil fuels, instead of increasing the use of renewable energy.[4]

Use of natural gas

The total U.S. natural gas production between January 2010 and July 2014. The data was collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Natural gas is used in generate electricity, heating buildings, fueling vehicles, heating water and powering furnaces in industrial facilities. Nearly 50 percent of U.S. homes use natural gas, mostly for space and water heating, as well as appliances like ovens, stoves and lighting fixtures. Other sources of natural gas consumption include:[5]

  • Commercial buildings for space heating, water heating or air conditioning. These buildings use 14 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States.
  • The electric power industry, the largest natural gas consumer in the U.S., consumed roughly 34 percent of natural gas for generating electricity.
  • Nearly 31 percent of natural gas consumption in the U.S. was by industries, which use it as a raw material and as a heating source. The products manufactured from natural gas use include fertilizer, plastics, pharmaceuticals and fabrics.


Natural gas proven reserves map.png

The United States had proven natural gas reserves of 354 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in 2013, according to the EIA. This represented a 10 percent increase on 2012 proven natural gas reserves. This change in proven reserves was driven by geological and economical factors. Geologically, there were extensions in existing natural gas fields, in addition to the discovery of new natural gas fields. Economically, natural gas prices increased in 2013, making more natural gas reserves profitable to extract.[6][7][8][9]

The map the right shows the changes from 2012 to 2013 in proven natural gas for each state in the United States. Pennsylvania and West Virginia had the largest increased in proven natural gas reserves in 2013. Alaska, meanwhile, had the largest decline, 2.284 billion cubic feet.[6]


The table below shows the top five natural gas-producing states in the U.S. in 2012.

Top 5 states for natural gas production (2012)[10]
State Total production (trillion cubic feet)
Texas 7.5 TCF
Louisiana 3.0 TCF
Pennsylvania 2.3 TCF
Oklahoma 2.0 TCF
Wyoming 2.0 TCF


The table below shows the top five natural gas-consuming states in the U.S. in 2012.

Top 5 states for natural gas consumption (2012)[11]
State Total consumption (trillion cubic feet)
Texas 3.9 TCF
California 2.4 TCF
Louisiana 1.5 TCF
Florida 1.3 TCF
New York 1.2 TCF

Major legislation

Major legislation regulating natural gas production goes as far back as the New Deal of the 1930s.[12]

  • The Natural Gas Act (1938) began federal regulation of natural gas. The law allowed the federal government to set rates that were charged by natural gas companies for their products. The law also prohibited new interstate natural gas pipelines from being built in areas already served by another gas pipeline.
  • The Natural Gas Policy Act (1978) was passed in response to nationwide natural gas supply shortages. The law began the deregulation of natural gas markets. Primarily, the legislation removed price controls on natural gas and broke down hurdles on interstate and intrastate commerce in natural gas.
  • The Natural Gas Wellhead Decontrol Act (1989) completed the deregulation of all natural gas wellhead prices nationwide, leaving the market to determine the price of natural gas.

See also


  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Glossary, N” accessed January 29, 2014
  2. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Annual Energy Outlook 2014 with projections to 2040," April 2014
  3. The EIA predictions used on this page refer to the EIA's AEO2014 Reference case. This reference case assumes the current laws and regulations that govern national energy policy remain the same. For the other cases, including low and high economic growth, and low and high oil prices, see their report [1].
  4. Triple Pundit, "Natural Gas: Pros and Cons," April 3, 2014
  5., "Uses of Natural Gas," accessed November 11, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, "U.S. natural gas reserves increase 10% in 2013 to reach a record 354 Tcf," December 4, 2014
  7. Six thousand feet of gas equals about one barrel of oil, which equals about 19 gallons of gasoline.
  8. U.S. Geological Survey, "World level summary of petroleum estimates for undiscovered conventional petroleum and reserve growth for oil, gas, and natural gas liquids (NGL).," 2000," accessed April 23, 2014
  9. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Frequently Asked Questions," May 30, 2013, accessed March 18, 2014
  10. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Which states consume and produce the most natural gas?," accessed November 11, 2014
  11. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Which states consume and produce the most natural gas?," accessed November 11, 2014
  12., "The History of Regulation in Natural Gas," accessed November, 11, 2014