The new U.S. gas triumphalists say the gas resource supply picture has changed, shale gas has saved us from importing lots of expensive LNG, we’ve got tons and tons of gas now and for years to come, and public policy ideas based on the idea of diminishing supplies of ever more costly gas need to be replaced.
Not so fast, a few analysts are saying. A few recent examples:
- Gail the Actuary, Our Finite World: “Don’t count on natural gas to solve US energy problems.”
- John Dizard, Financial Times: “Pitfalls of the US cheap gas habit.”
Both suggest, among other things, that gas may be cheap now but it won’t be cheap later, so don’t let your public policy (or your private long term investments) get hooked on cheap gas.
The Our Finite World piece is the less-sound of the two. It seems to add up to a claim that gas is so cheap that it doesn’t pay to invest in more production capacity, and if no one invests in more production capacity supplies will run down, and then gas will not be cheap anymore. So watch out! There are many informative charts in the post.
The Financial Times column essential comes down to a view that shale gas resources won’t yield as much gas as proponents believe, and ultimately the U.S. is going to find itself back on the tail end of a very expensive LNG supply chain. The story ends on an ominous note, suggesting that if we don’t hurry to line up LNG supply contracts now at twice the current price of gas in the U.S., then China might grab those supplies first.
I guess I’m still more in the gas triumphalist camp. My evidence is rather weak, admittedly: a combination of observing current market conditions (have you compared the price of gas to the price of oil lately?), reading about gas reserves and technology, some general understanding of economics, and a tendency toward “cornucopian” rather than “Malthusian” sentiments on long-run resource issues. (I can be convinced otherwise, but it will probably take a few years more of data from shale gas wells to make much a dent in my current beliefs.)