From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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Bureau of Economic Geology Technical Seminar, September 5, 2003

The Coming Gas Economy

Dr. Scott W. Tinker and Dr. Eugene M. Kim


U.S. energy consumption trends can be used as a proxy for global energy consumption trends. Prior to 1970, energy consumption in the United States, and the world, followed a very predictable “decarbonization” trend from carbon-based solid fuels of wood and coal, to carbon-based liquid fuels of oil and condensate, to hydrogen-based natural gas. In the mid-1970s, the decarbonization consumption trend was interrupted by oil and gas price volatility, and technology allowed solid, liquid and gas consumption percentages to “freeze” for nearly three decades in the United States. Over the next half century, energy efficiency, economic stability, environmental quality, and resource sustainability will combine to drive U.S. and global energy consumption trends toward an ever-greater percentage of natural gas, hydrogen, nuclear energy, and renewables. The natural gas component of the energy mix will be increasingly satisfied by unconventional sources such as tight gas, shale gas, coalbed methane, deepwater, subsalt, deep gas (>5,000 m), and gas hydrates. Sequestration of greenhouse gases resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels will be a vital part of the natural gas economy during transition to an eventual hydrogen economy. The shift from a liquid to gas global economy will be gradual over the next five decades, and will require an integrated and collaborative research and technology partnership between government, industry, and academia.