The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The economic—and environmental—case for natural gas

Jessica  Lutz

Jessica Lutz
Posted May 31, 2018

In a recently released report, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development digs into the factors that have made the U.S. energy dominance possible, and – specifically – the role of natural gas in energy dominance.

The U.S. energy renaissance of the past decade has been the result of an unprecedented level of production activity in areas with plentiful oil and natural gas resources. The industry’s commitment to safe operations that protect the community and environment is a central component of their license to operate.

Reliable and affordable, natural gas has become the leading fuel for U.S. electricity generation, sending carbon emissions in that sector – and beyond -- plummeting. The U.S. Energy Information Administration confirmed last week that CO2 emissions from electricity generation in the U.S. are at their lowest levels in 30 years. Meanwhile, total U.S. carbon emissions are at 25-year lows while global CO2 emissions have risen more than 50 percent since 1990.

Despite our country’s experience, anti-natural gas and oil advocates have seized on the U.N. Report, using scare-tactics to claim that the report is a warning to other nations not to allow hydraulic fracturing, instead of considering what the report itself says. Janvier Nkurunziza, Chief of UNCTAD’s Commodity Research and Analysis Section, summarizes directly:

“Whether it’s really good, or bad, depends on a number of factors that we analyze in this report: geology, sources of water for example; if you are increasing your water stress by using a lot of water, infrastructure and so on and so forth. We are not saying it’s good or bad, just look at the conditions and the region (where) you want to explore this resource, and then you can determine whether you can do it or not.”

The fact remains that the economic and climate benefits of natural gas are remarkable.


And it’s also true that the natural gas and oil industry is bound by strong environmental standards and works with local communities and regulators to study the unique geologic conditions of an area and to establish robust protections for groundwater.

In short, the U.S. has demonstrated that the production of natural gas can be both environmentally and economically beneficial.

Water safety is assured through technological innovation and redundancies, with 24/7 monitoring to protect communities. The combination of proven engineering technologies and industry risk management practices and standards, coupled with a complex web of federal and state regulatory regimes, ensure that operations are performed and managed effectively and that groundwater is protected. There are no documented instances of the hydraulic fracturing process contaminating groundwater resources, and instances of groundwater contamination due to other reasons, such as well integrity, are rare.

Natural gas safely produced with horizontal drilling results in a 90 percent smaller surface footprintInnovative horizontal drilling technology makes it possible to access energy horizontally in multiple directions from a single vertical well. The same revolutionary technological advances that made the U.S. the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer have also made energy exploration even safer and more efficient.

Energy is cleaner, cheaper and lowers Americans’ energy costs. Today only 6.6 percent of a household’s monthly spending is on energy.

The U.S. has proven that it’s possible to lead the world in natural gas and oil production and in reduction of carbon emissions at the same time. Through the continued innovation of America’s natural gas and oil industry, we continue to make the impossible, possible.


Jessica Lutz is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. Jessica joined API after 10+ years leading the in-house marketing and communications for non-profits and trade associations. A Michigan native, Jessica graduated from The University of Michigan with degrees in Communications and Political Science. She resides in Washington, D.C., and spends most of her free time trying to keep up with her energetic Giant Schnauzer, Jackson.