If you own a television you‘ve likely seen a lot of commercials pushing natural gas lately. People like Texas oil billionaire Boone Pickens have been touting natural gas as the solution to our energy crisis. Many are asserting that domestic natural gas development is our way to energy independence, and I have no doubt that it will play an important part. But the truth is that America’s natural gas reserves are not remotely large enough to be the focal point of our energy policy.
Roughly 70% of world natural gas reserves are located in the Middle East and Eurasia. Africa and Asia proper account for 20%. And the Americas along with Europe account for the remaining 10% with the United States at around 3.5 to 4% of the world’s natural gas reserves.
Russia still exerts a tremendous amount of influence throughout the region of Eurasia, and the Middle East is a virtual minefield of unfriendly regimes. Depending on which country you’re tapping reserves in the African or Asian continents you risk unstable and unfriendly business environments there as well. This leaves the US with even fewer options, and given the state of US/ Latin America relations, the US might not even have access to all of the roughly 7% of world natural gas reserves left in its own hemisphere.
We use about 24% of the natural gas that is produced worldwide, but we currently produce 21%. Right now, we are out producing poorer countries with larger natural gas reserves. But the world’s natural gas reserves are only predicted to last about 67 years, and as world-wide demand grows, the resource-rich countries like Iran will start to develop the infrastructure and technology necessary to boost their production. Shrinking domestic supplies will force the United States to be very creative in finding ways to sustain its consumption, and at the end of the day we will still be in the same situation we are in right now with regard to foreign energy dependence. Read more about natural gas here.
Non-renewable resource-based solutions to our energy crisis don’t appear to be viable in the long-term given our need to move away from fossil fuels as well as the international political challenges facing the United States. Indeed, domestic natural gas development must continue to be an important part of US energy policy going forward, but if we are looking for ways to become truly energy independent the focal point of our energy policy needs to be on renewable resources, carbon-neutral domestic energy production, and energy efficiency technology.