Bush Touts Expansion of U.S. Natural Gas Supplies

At an energy conference dubbed Natural Gas Nation held yesterday, former President George W. Bush said that "technology is a game-changer in America," as evidenced by advancements in natural gas drilling that have greatly increased the long-term supply of the fuel.

The technological progress is "transformative in helping America become independent of foreign sources of energy," and thus boosts the nation's energy security, said Bush, who gave opening remarks at the conference at Southern Methodist University.

Expansion of America's domestic energy production reduces the threat of disruptions in energy supplies from foreign nations that aren't political and philosophical allies of the U.S., said Bush, who once was a Midland-based oil and gas producer.

The George W. Bush Institute, a non-profit organization, presented the one-day conference with the SMU Cox Maguire Energy Institute.

The technological advances to which Bush referred, including horizontal drilling, have had a huge impact in North Texas, where approximately 14,000 wells have been drilled in the Barnett Shale, a geological zone that in 2008 became the largest natural-gas producing area in the nation.

In a morning panel discussion on natural gas supply, Southcross Energy CEO David Biegler said that current estimates of a 100-year U.S. gas supply show that "it's time to think of natural gas as a critical component of our energy supply" for the long term, not merely as a "bridge fuel" to be used until greater supplies of alternative energy sources such as nuclear, wind and solar can be developed.

In 2009, U.S. natural gas production was "up about 35 percent from the 1980s, when everybody said we were running out of gas," noted Biegler, a former president of Texas electric utility TXU Corp. and former CEO of ENSERCH Corp., parent company of the former Lone Star Gas.

The U.S. currently produces about 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually, but 30 trillion cubic feet of production is "eminently achievable," Biegler said.

Copyright (c) 2010, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.