"The role of natural gas in the U.S. economy is expected to be a major part of the debate over energy policy in the 112th Congress. This report briefly explains key aspects of global natural gas markets, including supply and demand, as well as major U.S. developments. Natural gas is considered a potential bridge fuel to a low carbon economy because it is cleaner burning than its hydrocarbon rivals coal and oil. Natural gas combustion emits about two-thirds less carbon dioxide than coal and one-quarter less than oil when consumed in a typical electric power plant. Natural gas combustion also emits less particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides than coal or oil. Additionally, improved methods to extract natural gas from certain shale formations has significantly increased the resource profile of the United States, which has spurred other countries to try to develop shale gas. If the United States and other countries can bring large new volumes of natural gas to market, then natural gas could play a larger role in the world's economy. Several key factors will determine whether significant new quantities of natural gas come to market, particularly unconventional natural gas resources. These factors include price, technical capability, environmental concerns, and political considerations. Many countries, both producing and consuming, are watching how the development of U.S. unconventional natural gas resources evolves."
CRS Report for Congress, R41543