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Book Review: Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth

Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth

Bill Powers is an independent analyst, and former editor ofPowers Energy InvestorCanadian Energy Viewpoint, and US Energy Investor. He has published investment research on the oil and gas industry since 2002. Powers sits on the board of directors of Arsenal Energy and is the chairman of the board at Petroglobe, Inc. He has earned a bachelor of science degree in finance from Georgetown University. 

Powers book Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth goes into great detail on the subject of natural gas and the United States. The book is divided into four sections covering just about all a person with a nominal background or knowledge in economics, geology, and a mind for reading graphs would want to know about natural gas. Formal education is not necessary to understand the book, but it reads like a case study rather than your average mass market energy book. Powers goes into great detail and backs up what he writes with seventy-five pages of documentation. 

The first section covers regulation of the gas industry through the Regan Era deregulation. It continues with the rush to build gas burning power plants and the beginning of the shale promise. Natural gas became the new miracle fuel with outrageous claims. Such as America had the natural gas equivalent of two Saudi Arabia worth of oil or 4,000 trillion cubic feet of gas. That is roughly 160 years worth of natural gas; far exceeding the mantra of 100 years of natural gas being thrown around by many people including the current president. Powers answers with math and facts. 

The second section covers United State’s natural gas demand. In 1970 natural gas supplied 18.6% of the electricity in America. In 2011 that grew to almost 31.3%. Cleaner burning natural gas started replacing dirty coal plants. The fertilizer industry is dependent on natural gas for the production of nitrogen based fertilizers. One place where there will be little growth is in transportation as natural gas powered cars are impractical without the infrastructure to support it. 

The third section Powers documents and supports all his claims with detailed information on the natural gas producing regions of the United States. There is an abundance of maps, graphs, and tables to support his writing. He also covers imported gas from Canada and liquid natural gas (LNG) from gas producing countries. 

The fourth section cover what we should do. Powers reconfirms the coming crisis as production has peaked and demand continues to rise. There simply is not enough natural gas to meet the growing demand. “Drill, baby, Drill,” is simply not the answer. Powers offers some practical solutions without resorting to Jimmy Carter’s, “Put on a sweater” solution. 

Cold, Hungry, and the Dark presents natural gas as “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Natural gas, being portrayed as the future fuel of America, just isn’t there for what we have been told to expect. A natural gas production decline will not just mean cold houses in the winter. It will mean electricity shortages and food shortages for our fertilizer dependent crops. It will be a disaster. Powers presents a strong case and backs his arguments against the overly optimistic projections. This book is well worth reading even if you are only going to use it for a reference source.

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