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How Best Can We Use Natural Gas? Should We At All? How Best Can We Use Natural Gas? Should We At All?

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How Best Can We Use Natural Gas? Should We At All?

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Equipment used for the extraction of natural gas is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on June 19, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

How best can the United States use its vast resources of natural gas? Or should we try to wean ourselves off the fuel altogether?

The natural-gas boom presents the country with opportunities, challenges, and some hard decisions. Natural gas has historically been used most for home heating, but in recent years it's taken over from coal a larger chunk of the electricity pie and has been used more in industrial and manufacturing processes. Trucking companies are also using it more as a fuel instead of diesel. Most controversially, energy producers are seeking to export natural gas where they can fetch higher prices abroad. How much natural gas is used in each of these different ways affects its price, which has been near historic lows over the last few years, as well as how much gas is produced through fracking. Natural gas burns 50 percent fewer carbon emissions than coal, but some environmentalists are concerned it's still not clean enough to effectively combat climate change.

 

How can the country go about deciding which ways to use natural gas? Is this a decision the Obama administration and Congress should help make? What factors, including economic and environmental, should influence how we use natural gas? Should any policy on natural-gas usage ensure it benefits the end-use consumers the most?

When considering global warming, should we try to stop the dramatic shift to natural gas across our economy? Or, can becoming more dependent on natural gas help us address climate change?

(This question is part of our New Energy Paradigm series, examining the country's shift from energy scarcity to abundance.)

 

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