By one study, the gas boom has created nearly 500,000 jobs for producers and their suppliers. Surging output has reduced wellhead prices more than half from stratospheric 2008 levels. In 2012, residential gas bills (which also cover transportation and distribution costs) are down 21 percent from 2008. Manufacturers consume about a third of U.S. natural gas as both a heating fuel and a petrochemical feedstock. Low prices are promoting investment by energy-intensive firms. Companies have announced at least 100 new projects or expansions worth an estimated $90 billion, estimates Dow Chemical.

Greenhouse gas emissions have also been curbed because natural gas, when used as an alternative to coal to generate electricity, produces about half as much carbon dioxide. Finally, fracking and horizontal drilling have been applied to oil, spawning a parallel boom. In 2012, U.S. oil production is up 25 percent from 2008. That’s about another 400,000 production and supplier jobs, estimates the consulting firm IHS.

The complaint that LNG exports might unwisely drive up natural gas prices comes from politicians and gas consumers.