The United States has experienced a “transformational shift in the perceived role of natural gas,” as an energy source that 10 years ago was perceived by some as unreliable and scarce, to one that now is recognized as an “essential component of a clean and secure energy portfolio,” providing an opportunity to satisfy new demand at “affordable” prices into the future, the American Gas Association (AGA) said last week.

The industry group’s white paper, The Promise of Natural Gas,” offers “a vision that points to a decade or more of relative market stability projected for this domestic, abundant fuel, and what it means for our nation and utility customers.” Abundant gas supplies offer “an incredible opportunity to deliver energy value to American homes and businesses, fuel a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing and provide a cleaner, less expensive option for vehicles, thus reducing our dependence on imported oil,” the paper states.

“This new era of sustained market stability poses great opportunity for our nation,” said AGA CEO Dave McCurdy. “America’s natural gas utilities are working within their communities to make vital investments in delivery infrastructure that make it possible for natural gas to serve a foundational role in meeting the nation’s energy needs for decades to come.”

AGA staff examined data on geologic formations, utility infrastructure, economic factors, and federal and state policies to shape a forward-looking view of natural gas. The vision outlined in the study states that for the next decade, domestic natural gas supplies are expected to be sufficiently robust to meet substantial growth in demand across all sectors. This strong natural gas supply position, when coupled with a growing and accessible delivery infrastructure, offers the nation a promise of affordable energy that can fuel economic recovery while also protecting our environment, the AGA said.

Natural gas utilities can make the most of this promise by working with customers and local policy makers to leverage the efficient use of natural gas in thermal applications, expand access to natural gas vehicle fueling infrastructure, increase the use of combined heat and power technologies, and explore how micro-grids can help communities address their energy needs, said the white paper.

The AGA recommends that gas delivery infrastructure be expanded to enhance the operation of the energy network to provide more customer information. It also suggested that energy efficiency programs be deployed that “fully leverage” gas efficiency for space and water heating. In addition, the paper recommends the expanded use of combined heat and power in commercial and industrial applications for fuel cells, micro-grids and energy innovations. Public-private partnerships to expand the network of refueling options for natural gas vehicles also are encouraged.

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