What are the challenges and opportunities ahead for natural gas?
The recent revolution involving shale natural gas in the United States has sparked debate on a range of issues: the environmental and safety concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing--the controversial extraction method that's critical to accessing shale gas; how gas should be used within the country; and whether gas should be exported to countries where prices are high compared to domestic prices, which are at record lows.
Recent developments on these issues underscore the importance of the natural-gas industry. More and more states are enacting laws that require companies to disclose the ingredients and concentrations of the fluids used in hydraulic fracturing. The Energy Department is already approving the first natural-gas exports, and several other applications are pending before it. Meanwhile, legislation in Congress would provide tax incentives for natural-gas-powered trucks, and Environmental Protection Agency clean-air rules are encouraging more utilities to shift from coal-fired power plants to natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal.
How should President Obama and Congress handle these disparate issues in the natural-gas industry? Should Congress enact federal legislation requiring disclosure of fracking fluids? Should the United States export natural gas to capitalize on the shale gas revolution and high prices abroad? What role, if any, should the U.S. government play in regulating natural-gas exports?