Study: The natural gas boom isn't going anywhere for awhile

While naysayers have been claiming that the natural-gas revolution is more of a flash in the pan riddled with problems than an economic boon built to last, a comprehensive new study from the University of Texas concludes that the rate of natural gas production is only going to keep increasing for decades to come before it eventually plateaus out. The WSJ reports:

U.S. natural-gas production will accelerate over the next three decades, new research indicates, providing the strongest evidence yet that the energy boom remaking America will last for a generation.

The most exhaustive study to date of a key natural-gas field in Texas, combined with related research under way elsewhere, shows that U.S. shale-rock formations will provide a growing source of moderately priced natural gas through 2040, and decline only slowly after that. …

The study, funded by the nonpartisan Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and performed by the University of Texas, examined 15,000 wells drilled in the Barnett Shale formation in northern Texas, mostly over the past decade. …

Looking at data from actual wells rather than relying on estimates and extrapolations, the study broadly confirms conclusions by the energy industry and the U.S. government, which in December forecast rising gas production.

“We are looking at multi, multi decades of growth,” said Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the university and a leader of the study.

That means productive, private-sector job creation, enhanced energy security, economic growth, and more revenue, if the Obama administration has the good sense to allow the natural-gas boom to proceed unhampered. I’m thinking that President Obama’s rumored Moniz pick to replace Chu at the Energy Department is probably pretty indicative of how they’re going to play this thing — they’ll cautiously, modestly facilitate more natural gas development, but as a relatively cleaner “bridge fuel” while they heavily and heartily “invest” in and trumpet their efforts to buoy up their favorite perceived renewable energies, mandate more efficiency standards, and continue to hate on coal.

That sounds like the strategy to which an Obama adviser hinted on Wednesday: “We’re not glossing over the challenges of natural gas development, but we’re also not ignoring the opportunity natural gas presents for jobs and for the climate.” Via Reuters:

As U.S. oil and natural gas production booms, the Obama administration’s energy policy has been “fluid” by necessity to adapt to the huge economic opportunities and climate challenges posed by growth, the top White House energy and climate adviser said on Wednesday.

In a speech to a room packed with energy analysts and lobbyists, Obama adviser Heather Zichal acknowledged that U.S. energy policy “might not look perfectly pretty from the outside” as it evolves to shifting supply-and-demand scenarios.

“It is a little bit fluid, but the landscape is changing,” Zichal said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank. …

The White House recognizes the impact oil and natural gas production has had on the economy, creating jobs and bringing manufacturing operations from companies like Dow Chemical Co and Ford Motor Co back from overseas, Zichal said.