Can Natural Gas Make the US Energy-Independent?
The US is now the world's leading producer of natural gas but can the fuel be harvested in an environmentally sustainable way? And can we build the needed infrastructure fast enough?
What's the Latest Development?
Former Volkswagen technician Bob Mann now spends his days converting gasoline-fueled cars into ones that run on compressed natural gas. For every four dollars he used to spend at the pump, he now spends 60 cents for the equivalent amount of energy. Better technology and higher oil prices have made the US the world's largest producer of natural gas. "The US Department of Energy estimates that 482 trillion cubic feet of natural gas exists in the US. At the current rate of consumption, that's a 90-year supply." In addition, the fuel burns cleaner than gasoline, putting fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
What's the Big Idea?
The most attractive argument in favor of natural gas is to use it as a 'bridge fuel', affording the US greater energy independence until wind, solar, and other sustainable energy sources become more economical. To accomplish that, however, we would need to overhaul the nation's fuel distribution infrastructure, making natural gas lines available to motorists just like gasoline stations. As for the environment, while the methane that makes up natural gas burns cleaner than traditional fuel sources, its volatility in natural form makes it "a potentially bigger contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide."
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