Cheap natural gas might be weighing on producers but it's been a boon for consumers and economic development, according to a study by the American Gas Association (AGA) that says consumers have saved $250 billion over the last three years.

The study "Identifying Key Economic Impacts of Recent Increases in U.S. Natural Gas Production" credits shale gas production in the United States for lower commodity prices that have translated into "huge savings" for residential and commercial customers.

"Our customers have been seeing the benefits of our domestic abundance of clean natural gas on their bills," said AGA CEO Dave McCurdy. "Now our nation has an opportunity to benefit from this abundance as well. When natural gas is combined with the entire energy portfolio of wind, solar and nuclear, the result is an entirely new playing field for the U.S. economy and a giant step towards increasing our energy security."

A typical residential customer saved more than $175 during 2010 alone, AGA said. The average commercial customer saved more than $1,100 on its 2010 annual bill.

"In fact, the total among of savings to all end-use customers during the past three years has been almost a quarter of a trillion dollars," the report said. "As might be expected, the largest impacts occurred in the industrial and electricity generation sectors due to their significantly larger consumption of natural gas."

The report also details the employment impacts associated with shale basin development. Job creation directly tied to energy extraction and delivery accounted for about 150,000 new jobs in 2011, or about 9% of all new U.S. jobs that year. It was estimated that shale gas alone had almost 150,000 people directly employed in the shale gas extraction activity during 2010.

Jobs that provide goods and services to the shale industry totaled 194,000 in 2011. States such as Pennsylvania and Texas have seen some of the biggest gains, according to the AGA research.

"These crucial economic impacts can be sustained if we continue responsible and sustainable development of natural gas resources and work to include natural gas as a foundational component to lower carbon energy solutions in our future," McCurdy said.

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