The natural gas interests are interested in the being the first choice fuel in the American future. A report just issued from the Potential Gas Committee sure makes natural gas look like the best potential fuel for generating electricity in coming decades. The U.S. is actually adding to its estimated reserves. Unlike Peak Oil, there seems no fear that natural gas is in seriously dwindling supply. How can there be more natural gas? More sophisticated exploration techniques and more effective gas release technology. Of course, any exploited resource comes with a cost. From coal mining to obtaining minerals for lithium-ion batteries to casting solar panels to storing nuclear waste, we've no energy source that does not exact some environmental toll. We need a new calculus that takes into account the full costs of any future technology, even that of burning natural gas. And there's apparently a huge supply of natural gas in American shale deposits. Not unlike Canada's huge oil reserves in shale. Getting it out is harder than simply opening another can of Coke. It calls for fracking. I recently blogged about the downside of fracking. And wikipedia merely says the resulting polluted water is either reused or trucked away...perhaps to a pond near you. There are bills before Congress that would once again give the federal government power to regulate what chemicals are used in fracking and determine if they're getting into drinking water supplies.The fossil fuel industry wants to keep secret what chemicals they mix with water and sand when they pump it into the ground to fracture the shale deposities containing natural gas. Their argument, "Trust me." Natural gas is certainly more efficient at producing electricity than burning coal, the #1 generation source in the U.S. today. Less greenhouse gas emissions, fewer unwanted toxic by-products. Hell, you don't even get those coal ash heaps that threaten our very national security according to some. And once gas pipelines are in place, gas is easier to move than hauling tons of coal around the countryside, not to mention all that waste left over after you've burned that coal. Our neighbors up in Canada seem to have plenty of natural gas as well. The Potential Gas Committee was set up 45 years ago at the Colorado School of Mines. There are 105 volunteer members on the committee, and its activities are largely funded by "donations" from energy companies you've heard of: Duke, El Paso, Cheasepeake, and a score of other contributors. So you can accept their estimate, or take it with a grain of coal. Either way the lobbying for natural gas and against federal fracking regulation will be intense and costly. And, of course, we natural gas customers get to pay the bills for both regulators and de-regulators alike.