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The Beauty of Natural Gas Vincent Matthews Ph.D., CPG-11610

Member, UWEC Geology and Responsible Mining Initiative Board Director, Colorado Geological Survey (Retired).

Vince Matthews is an AIPG geologist who spent two decades of his career in the oil and gas industry, a decade in academia, a decade as Director of the Colorado Geological Survey, and is now retired in Wisconsin.

A little over a decade ago, American ingenuity assured that America would have ample, domestic supplies of natural gas for years to come. Creative geologists and engineers worked together to figure out how to get gas out of shale that lies a mile, to more than two miles, deep underground. This effort was successful beyond anyone’s imagination and has led to a long period of low natural-gas prices for us consumers. Our nation now has one of the largest gas reserves in the world, one that is also among the cheapest available to its consumers.

And I am glad that America has an abundance of this cheap, clean, and versatile energy source.

As a boy living in 1940s Tennessee, my family heated our home with a coal-burning furnace. Every month the coal truck would arrive and pour tons of coal down a chute into a small room in our basement (the coal bin). Each morning my dad would shovel coal into the furnace after removing the previous night’s production of ash and clinkers. It was a thrill when my dad deemed that I was old enough to remove clinkers myself. Of course, the thrill wore off in about a week.

When my family moved to Pennsylvania, our new house contained an unexpected blessing — a natural gas furnace. No longer did coal storage have to take up space in the base- ment, or coal have to be shoveled every morning, or ash and clinkers have to be taken out each morning. Instead, gas was automatically delivered, when needed, through a pipeline.

And, when we retired to Eau Claire, finding a home with a gas stove was a requirement. We’re fortunate that our nation has a natural-gas delivery system that serves nearly half the homes in this nation. And, it is amazingly safe. Each year, 25 times more people are killed falling out of bed than in natural- gas leaks or explosions.

Increased natural gas consumption has been crucial to meeting America’s environmental goals. Natural-gas power plants are extremely important as the backup to our electrical generation from renewables. When wind and solar stop their production periodically, an instantaneous backup is necessary to provide continual electricity to consumers. So far, natural


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Cheap, clean and versatile: natural gas stovetop flames.

gas is the only energy supply that can do this on short notice. As our country’s natural gas consumption increased from 2006 to 2014, our CO2 emissions decreased, even though Congress did not approve the Kyoto Treaty. And of course, particulate emissions are negligible.

There are also other benefits to America’s increased use of natural gas. For example, having a cheap source of energy has enabled American manufacturing to remain competitive, and to regain competitiveness in some areas.

Although Wisconsin has no natural gas production, we are the 18th largest consumer in the nation. And we provide a crucial product for natural gas production: high-quality sand used in hydraulic fracturing of shales in petroleum-producing states.

America is the world’s largest user of this clean fuel and has the fourth-largest reserves for the future. We are indeed blessed with an abundance of this natural resource, the tech- nology to economically produce it, and the distribution system to transport it efficiently and safely.

8 TPG • Jul.Aug.Sep 2018

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