America's Lucky Break With Natural Gas

America's natural gas boom is, in part, a story about technology triumphing over geology, of companies that merged advanced drilling techniques to tap resources that not long ago seemed like economic dead ends.

But as Bloomberg Businessweek writes this week, the U.S. also been lucky. Very lucky. Energy companies are quickly discovering that out our deposits are are a whole lot cheaper to drill than those elsewhere in the world, as shown in the graphic below.

Shale_Gas_Boom.PNG


Thank the "accommodating geology" of our shale deposits, the magazine writes. A driller in Pennsylvania can turn a profit with gas selling at $3 per million BTU. In Poland, the magic number is $9. Drilling a well in China will cost triple the price it would in the United States. 

The higher costs are slowing down development of global gas resources, which means prices are likely to stay higher abroad than here in the United States for the foreseeable future. That likely means there will be more pressure on the government to approve gas export projects. After all, the U.S. is currently in the middle of a glut that has driven down prices to historic lows, and has forced many producers to slow down their drilling. The world wants what we're lucky enough to have. And there are a lot of companies that would like to give it to them. 

Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Google Street View, Transformed Into a Tiny Planet

A 360-degree tour of our world, made entirely from Google's panoramas

Video

The 86-Year-Old Farmer Who Won't Quit

A filmmaker returns to his hometown to profile the patriarch of a family farm

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

More in Business

Just In