A story posted by the New York Times Friday has created some false impressions about the use of natural gas in New England during cold snaps. Natural gas has become the fuel of choice for New England power generators because of its environmental benefits, the low capital cost to build natural gas power plants and its competitive price. Power plants fueled by this abundant, American resource now account for 51 percent of electricity generation in the region.
For some context, one quarter of all U.S. energy comes from natural gas. There are 2.4 million miles of pipelines that deliver natural gas to more than 70 million U.S. households, businesses, industries and power plants. The Potential Gas Committee, the Energy Information Administration and the National Petroleum Council all estimate that there is many generations worth of natural gas.
So why the problem in New England? Because of the attributes mentioned above, gas is in high demand in New England, but the pipeline infrastructure needed to support robust natural gas markets has to catch up. We have more natural gas in this country than we know what to do with. What’s needed are aggressive regional approaches that expand pipelines so that affordable gas supplies can get where they are in demand. The story’s implication that natural gas supply is not keeping up, and is thus causing high prices, is simply wrong. All parties must come together on a way to commercially develop pipelines. This will ensure that there aren’t bottlenecks that can cause New England prices to be disconnected from the stable and affordable prices being enjoyed by other regions around the country.