Exhaustively researched and rigorously documented, Bill Powers, editor of Powers Energy Investor, presents his findings in Cold, Hungry and in the Dark (New Society Publishers, 2013). He puts natural gas supply-and-demand trends under a microscope, provides overwhelming evidence of the absurdity of the 100-year supply myth, and suggests numerous ways to mitigate the upcoming natural gas price spike.
How many times in the past fifteen years has conventional wisdom been turned on its head? In the last two years of the 1990s, financial commentators and accepted experts across America touted the virtues of technology shares, only to see the internet/technology market implode. More recently, conventional wisdom held that “housing was the best investment a family could make” and that one “should buy all the house possible,” since housing prices had not gone down since the Great Depression. At the height of the housing boom, David Lereah, the Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors, discussed the virtues of owning real estate in his 2006 book Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust and How You Can Profit From It[i]. To be fair, Mr. Lereah had plenty of company in getting the housing debacle terribly wrong. In March 2007, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before Congress that, “the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained.”[ii] For someone with superior access to information about our economy and banking system, it is beyond me how Mr. Bernanke could have found the excess leverage and subprime activity to be “contained,” when it nearly crashed the world’s financial system later that same year.
But surely the experts will not be wrong about the United States’ supplies of natural gas — right? Surely — just as we all “knew” that real estate was the end-all, be-all of investments — we now “know” that America really does have a hundred-year supply of natural gas. Surely the industry professionals and government officials who are promoting accelerated use of natural gas as a bridge fuel are relying upon facts?
In reality, the facts — simple facts — do not support the thesis that the U.S. has anywhere close to a hundred-year supply of natural gas. After reviewing America’s sources of natural gas supply for more than three years, it is quite clear to me that various groups have vastly overestimated our country’s likely natural gas reserves and potential resources. More importantly, America is nearly certain to experience a severe deliverability crisis between 2013 and 2015, due to the natural gas industry’s inability to balance supply with growing demand. And when natural gas runs out, America shuts down. We depend on natural gas to produce fertilizer for the majority of food we eat, to heat 51 percent of our homes and to generate 31 percent of our electricity.[iii] In other words, without adequate natural gas supplies, the quality of life we have enjoyed for decades falls off a cliff.
So what can we do? The good news is there is lots we can do to mitigate the impact of the coming decline in U.S. natural gas supplies. But before any solutions are put in place, much of today’s conventional wisdom about natural gas, its supply and its deliverability will have to be discredited. In this book I will review the history of the natural gas crisis of the 1970s and why it is relevant to the coming crisis; provide a realistic assessment of America’s natural gas supply/demand balance, including a detailed review of all of our country’s major sources of supply; and suggest solutions to mitigate the effects of the coming natural gas crisis that quietly lurks over the horizon.
Reprinted with permission from Cold, Hungry and in the Dark by Bill Powers and published by New Society Publishers, 2013.