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Natural gas prices hit 10-year lows

Adriene Hill Mar 30, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: You know how we touch on oil prices from time to time, as a way to stay connected to the energy economy?

That’s so passe. Welcome to the world not of constantly rising crude, but of natural gas prices at a 10-year low. Marketplace’s Adriene Hill explains why and why it matters.

Adriene Hill: The natural gas industry in the U.S. has been on a bit of a tear, at least when it comes to supply.

Michael Giberson is a professor at Texas Tech University.

Michael Giberson: We’ll we’ve had a surprising boom of production over the last couple of years.

Expectations were rewritten in the last decade, along with the development of a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” that’s opened up huge reserves of natural gas.

Giberson: You hear numbers like a 50-year supply, 100-year supply and even bigger. I think that there’s enough of a supply that we don’t have to worry about it.

At least for long, long time. All that supply has pushed prices down to 10-year lows.

Charles Ebinger is director of the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings.

Charles Ebinger: Natural gas represents, I think, a game changer for the U.S. energy situation and for our economy.

Ebinger says there’s growing demand in the export market and here at home. Power companies are looking for alternatives to coal, the transportation sector wants alternatives to oil. And manufacturing.

Ebinger: We’re already seeing some petrochemical and chemical companies that moved out of the county and located offshore now saying that despite higher labor costs, that cheap natural gas costs will offset that and make us one of the lowest cost places in the world for major manufacturing production.

All those changes could mean more jobs, Ebinger says. And natural gas prices that are likely higher than they are today.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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