Natural Gas Shortage

November 7, 1975

Report Outline
Impending Scarcities This Winter
History of Gas Use and Regulation
Outlook for Overcoming Shortage
Special Focus

Impending Scarcities This Winter

Probable Dimensions of Natural Gas Curtailment

Just two winters after the Arab oil embargo, the United States must face another severe energy shortage. This time the threatened energy source is not oil but natural gas, which is hardly less critical to the well-being of the American economy. Natural gas represents about one-third of the total fuel consumed in the United States. It is used in over 40 million homes, 3.4 million commercial establishments, and 200,000 industrial plants. Unlike the sudden oil embargo in 1973, the natural gas shortage has been growing for some time.

Since 1968, the nation has been consuming more natural gas than it has been adding to its reserves. The low cost, clean-burning quality, and (until recently) availability of natural gas made it a highly desirable fuel. For decades, consumption increased rapidly. In a 1969 staff report, the Federal Power Commission's Bureau of Natural Gas warned that supplies were diminishing to critical levels and were soon likely to be outrun by demand. In December 1974, the Bureau of Natural Gas issued “A Realistic View of U.S. Natural Gas Supply,” which stated: “The events of the past five years have fully validated that warning. However, insofar as the [1969] report erred, it erred on the side of understatement. The gas shortage arrived sooner and impacted more severely than anticipated and today shows no sign of abating.”

Curtailments of gas supplies this year are expected to amount to 2.9 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or about 15 per cent of demand, according to the Federal Energy Administration (FEA). This represents a 45 per cent increase over curtailments in 1974. Since gas shortages are worst in winter, when the need for heating is greatest, the outlook for early 1976 is no better. A report by the House Committee on Government Operations in July 1975 put the situation in vivid terms: “The bicentennial months of November 1975 through April 1976 well may conjur up realistic visions of Washington's discomfort at Valley Forge. …The shortage effects will approach those of the 1973 Arab oil embargo with equally devastating effects.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Natural Gas
Nov. 07, 1975  Natural Gas Shortage
Apr. 27, 1955  Natural Gas Regulation
Oct. 05, 1931  Development of the Natural Gas Industry
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Energy and the Environment
Oil and Natural Gas