Unlocking vast reserves of shale gas could solve the energy crisis, the jobs crisis, and the deficit

Business Week – shale production in the U.S. has increased from practically nothing in 2000 to more than 13 billion cubic feet per day, or about 30 percent of the country’s natural gas supply. That proportion is heading toward 50 percent in coming years. The U.S. passed Russia in 2009 to become the world’s largest producer of natural gas. An Energy Dept. advisory panel on which Krupp sits estimated in August that more than 200,000 jobs, both direct and indirect, “have been created over the last several years by the development of domestic production of shale gas.”

Natural gas is a cleaner fuel than coal but it is not as clean or safe as nuclear, wind and solar.

The US now gets 45 percent of its electricity from coal, 25 percent from natural gas, 20 percent from nuclear, 7 percent from hydro, and 2 percent from wind. Solar barely registers. With current technology, wind and solar probably can’t reach into double digits, let alone bear the bulk of the load.

After almost selling his company during the late-’90s doldrums, Aubrey McClendon dramatically switched strategy and wagered Chesapeake’s future on shale. (A few years later, he lost much of his personal fortune during the financial crisis of 2008 before gaining it back.) Today, Chesapeake is the most active driller of new wells in the U.S., with 177 rigs in operation. It is the country’s second-biggest overall producer of natural gas, behind only ExxonMobil, which announced in late 2009 that it would join the gas rush by buying XTO Energy for $41 billion. Anadarko Petroleum (APC) is the third-largest producer, followed by Devon.

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