It is used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick and electricity. It is also used as a raw material for common products such as paint, fertilizer and plastics, as well as home heating fuel.
It is used to heat more than half of the nation's single-family homes, according to industry trade groups.
Like most commodities, natural gas has been prone to dramatic price swings for decades, creating cost uncertainty for industries that rely on such fuel as an energy source or feedstock.
As a result of current excess supply, however, the price of natural gas in North America has fallen dramatically to about $2.20 per thousand cubic feet (mcf), a quarter of its record high of $8.86 in 2008.
Domestically, analysts expect natural gas prices to average $3.50 per mcf for at least the next five years.
By comparison, Europe and Asia, which use naphtha, a more expensive oil-based feedstock, are still paying up to $17 per mcf.
According to the IHS report, low and stable gas prices in the U.S. are contributing to a 10 percent reduction in electricity costs to consumers and a 1.1 percent increase in the level of 2012 GDP.
Perhaps more importantly, it is encouraging manufacturers to expand operations in the U.S., building new production facilities, or reopen plants that were shuttered during the recession.Page 3 of 6 | Prev Page | Next Page