Natural Gas is America’s Domestic clean foundation fuel for the present and our long-term future. Natural gas touches nearly every segment of American life. It is the dominant source of energy for heat and hot water in residences and businesses across this country. It also cooks our food, dries our clothes, powers industry and generates electricity. The natural gas industry supports the employment of nearly 3 million Americans in all 50 states. There is a tremendous opportunity for consumers and our nation as a whole through greater use of natural gas.

All natural gas, including shale gas, can and should be produced in an environmentally responsible fashion. Our nation possesses a 100-year supply of natural gas. In fact, the United States now has more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil, making us the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Advances in technology have led to the cost-effective development of natural gas from shale formations. The result has been a dramatic increase in the amount of domestic natural gas available for the American energy market. Neither the political instability in the Middle East nor last year's winter of sustained cold and record snowfall significantly affected natural gas prices in the United States, which remained relatively low and stable. We must put this abundant resource to good use.

More than half of the new electric generation capacity expected to be built in the coming decades will burn natural gas. Still, the impact on total natural gas supply will not be detrimental. Most of the new plants will use highly efficient combined-cycle technology, consuming less natural gas to generate electricity than traditional plants. While these highly efficient plants are being added to the system, older, less efficient gas plants will be retired, helping to offset any increase in gas demand from these new units. Even if natural gas use for electricity generation grows at a faster pace than expected, our abundant supply of natural gas can meet that demand.

Despite this abundance, we should still use this resource wisely. The best use of natural gas is directly powering natural gas appliances in America's homes and businesses, rather than burning gas to generate electricity that will power comparable electric appliances. Direct use of natural gas is the cleanest, most efficient and least expensive way to utilize this fuel.

The size of the average American home has increased by more than 50 percent since 1970, yet during that same time period natural gas consumption has gone down by 40 percent per household. This is due to more efficient gas appliances and more efficient homes. In short, the direct use of natural gas is the smarter, cleaner and more efficient choice.

We are only beginning to tap natural gas's potential. In the transportation sector, natural gas can immediately be put to use across the country to fuel a wide range of transportation options, from fleet and light-duty vehicles to heavy-duty trucking and off-road applications. More than 50 natural gas utilities and producers have joined forces and are working alongside fleet managers and other industry players to further policies for the use of clean, domestic and affordable natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Natural gas is available now to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Combining abundant supplies of natural gas with the entire energy portfolio of wind, solar and nuclear creates an entirely new playing field for the U.S. economy. Natural gas is a foundation fuel that can help meet the energy needs in all sectors - residential, commercial, industrial, electricity generation, and transportation - cleanly, economically and efficiently.

Dave McCurdy heads the American Gas Association in Washington. This story first appeared in the January-February edition of EnergyBiz magazine. An earlier story written by the coal interest appeared and this story is a "response" to that one.