New Report: The Truth About Natural Gas Supply, Costs & Environmental Impact May, 2011

 New Report: The Truth About Natural Gas Supply, Costs & Environmental Impact –

For Release 12 May 2011Tod BrilliantPOST CARBON INSTITUTEtod@postcarbon.org707-823-8700 x105
New Report: The Truth About Natural Gas Supply, Costs & Environmental Impact

San Francisco, CA (May 12) A detailed new energy report argues that the natural gas industry has propagated dangerously false claims about natural gas production supply, cost and environmental impact. The report, “Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century” is authored by leading geoscientist and Post Carbon Institute Fellow J. David Hughes.

The most significant of the natural gas industry’s claims – one that has been bought hook, line and sinker by everyone from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) and the Obama Administration, to leading environmental groups – is that the United States has a 100-year supply of cheap natural gas. The report shows this to be a pipe dream. Natural gas would require higher costs and unprecedented drilling efforts to meet even baseline supply projections. In fact, the U.S. faces a decline in domestic gas supplies in the very near future unless drilling rates quickly increase.

Also debunked is the perception that shale gas is better for the climate than coal. Building on other recent analysis, the report shows that shale gas is worse than coal over a 20-30 year timeframe, even after efforts to mitigate fugitive methane emissions. This should have major implications for those who have touted natural gas as a near-term bridge to a clean energy future.

Download the report at:

Report author David Hughes will present his findings and participate in a Q&A session next week.

TELECONFERENCE ONLY: Toll-free number (US/Canada): 1-866-469-3239
Access Code: 492 172 835
For international toll free access:

Post Carbon Institute’s report concludes that we face serious, and heretofore unacknowledged, production constraints with shale gas that mean the following three things are very unlikely to happen:

  1. Meeting the Energy Information Agency’s projections for natural gas to 2035.
  2. Replacing significant amounts of coal-fired electricity with natural gas (not included in EIA projections).
  3. Transitioning significant % of the vehicle fleet to burn natural gas (also not included in EIA projections).

All of three of these would require much higher levels of drilling and higher prices than projected by the EIA. At least 35,000 new wells will need to be drilled each and every year to meet EIA projections. More still to provide more natural gas-fired electricity and far more than this number to transition the vehicle fleet.

Bottom line, we will be living with less domestic natural gas in the future, not more, unless we are prepared to pay higher prices and tolerate a major scale up of climate and other environmental impacts. This is a major challenge to the nearly ubiquitous assumption that we will have abundant, cheap, and “clean” natural gas to power our future.


J. David Hughes is a geoscientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for nearly four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the recent publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential. He is a board member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – Canada and is a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute. He is currently president of a consultancy dedicated to research on energy and sustainability issues.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

In addition to Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute Fellows include Bill McKibben, Sandra Postel, Wes Jackson, David Orr and 24 others.

Tel: +1.707.823.8700 • Fax: +1.866.797.5820   •

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