A little over a decade ago, American ingenuity assured that America would have ample, domestic supplies of natural gas for years to come. Creative geologists and engineers worked together to figure out how to get gas out of shale that is a mile, to two miles, deep underground.

This effort was successful beyond anyone’s imagination and has led to a long period of low, natural-gas prices for us consumers.

Our nation now has one of the largest gas reserves in the world and lowest cost to the consumer.

And I am glad that America has an abundance of this cheap, clean, and versatile energy source.

As a boy living in 1940s Tennessee, my family heated our home with a coal-burning furnace. Monthly, the coal truck would arrive and pour tons of coal down a chute into a small room in our basement (the coal bin). Each morning, my dad would shovel coal into the furnace after removing the previous night’s production of ash and clinkers. lt was a thrill when my dad deemed that I was old enough to remove clinkers myself. Of course, the thrill wore off in about a week.

When my family moved to Pennsylvania, our new house contained an unexpected blessing,—a natural gas furnace. No longer did coal storage have to take up space in the basement, or coal have to be shoveled every morning, or ash and clinkers have to be taken out each morning.

lnstead, gas was automatically delivered, when needed, through a pipeline.

And when we retired to Eau Claire, finding a home with a gas stove was a requirement. We’re fortunate that our nation has a natural-gas, delivery system that serves nearly half the homes in this nation.

And, it is amazingly safe. Each year, 25 times more people are killed falling out of bed than in natural-gas leaks or explosions.

lncreased natural gas consumption has been crucial to meeting America’s environmental goals.

Natural-gas, power plants are extremely important as the backup to our renewable, electrical generation.

So far, natural gas is the only energy supply that can do this. As our country’s natural gas consumption increased from 2006 to 2014, our CO2 emissions decreased, even though Congress did not approve the Kyoto Treaty. And, of course particulate emissions are negligible.

There are also other benefits to America’s increased use of natural gas. For example, having a cheap source of energy has enabled American manufacturing to remain competitive, and regain competitiveness in some areas

Although Wisconsin has no natural gas production, we are the 18th largest consumer in the nation. And we provide a crucial product for natural gas production; high-quality sand used in hydraulic fracturing of shales in petroleum-producing states.

America is the world’s largest user of this clean fuel and has the fourth-largest reserves for the future.

We are indeed blessed with an abundance of this natural resource, the technology to economically produce it, and the distribution system to transport it efficiently and safely.

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Vincent Matthews is a certified professional geologist and a member of the UW-Eau Claire, Geology and Responsible Mining lnitiative Advisory Board.


(1) comment


I'm actually a little sceptical about carbon capture and storage methods even though people are saying that it will really change how we use natural gas now. How can we guarantee that nothing will happen if we have to go to such lengths to keep the externalities locked away in storage in an unnatural way?

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