May 2005
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
Natural gas provides 24 percent of the energy used by U.S. homes and businesses and is a vital feedstock for chemical, fertilizer, and other industries. Since 1999, natural gas prices in the U.S. have more than doubled, adding about $70 billion annually to U.S. natural gas customers and causing widespread adverse economic impacts, including high home heating bills, escalating commercial energy costs (affecting hospitals, schools, office buildings, and shopping centers), substantial job losses in chemicals, fertilizer, and manufacturing industries, and financial distress in the electric power sector. The root of the natural gas problem is that production in North America has hit a plateau and can no longer keep up with growing demand in the U.S. and Canada. As a result, the U.S. is facing a future with higher natural gas prices and a growing dependence on overseas imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for incremental supply. In December 2004, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Domenici, requested "fresh ideas" to address the growing natural gas crisis in the U.S. affordable national energy future....
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