Natural Gas Now Least Expensive Way to Generate Electricity

Jack Kelly had an excellent column in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It starts out with a brief history of the discovery of oil in the U.S. and moves to shale gas and points out that shale gas is an even bigger game changer than oil was. Did you know that natural gas is now the cheapest way of generating electricity?! Renewable sources like wind cost 1.5 times more, and solar costs 3.3 times more to produce the same megawatt of electricity as natural gas.

Among Jack’s observations:

The Marcellus Shale formation alone may contain 84 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, the U.S. Geological Survey said in August. That’s up from the 2 tcf the survey had estimated in 2002.

Before fracking, burning natural gas to generate electricity was like feeding filet mignon to your dog. Now, it’s the most economical way. The "levelized cost" of generating a megawatt hour from a new plant is $63 for natural gas, $95 for coal, $97 for wind, $114 for nuclear and $211 for solar, according to the Energy Information Administration.

As a motor vehicle fuel, compressed natural gas costs about a third less than gasoline. Vehicles powered by natural gas reduce pollutants 60 to 90 percent. They’re safer, too, because if there’s an accident, there’s little likelihood of fire or explosion.

Marcellus Shale added 44,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and 13,000 jobs in West Virginia in 2009, according to researchers at Penn State. Ohio could add more than 200,000 jobs in just four years, an industry group there estimated in September. Nationally, the direct and indirect gains in jobs are measured in millions.

We could be energy independent in less than a decade. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia stand to lose their geopolitical clout.*

It’s well worth your time to read the rest of Jack’s excellent column (click the link below).

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct 30, 2011) – Viva the shale gas revolution