03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Natural Gas: A Made-in-America Opportunity

U.S. leaders are returning from Copenhagen with fresh global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They're also heading home for the holidays preparing for an election year when jobs and the economy will be issue #1 at kitchen tables across America.

As our nation looks to establish its bona fides on clean energy, while putting Americans back to work, one often overlooked domestic resource stands abundantly ready--right here and right now--to make a difference, and that's natural gas.

Natural gas supports more than 2.8 million American jobs throughout our country, pumping $385 billion into the nation's economy last year, according to a recent study by IHS Global Insight. Fueling these opportunities is the fact that the industry is in the midst of game-changing innovation, which is unleashing abundant new supplies that can power our nation for generations to come.

A recent front-page article in the Washington Post explains the vast opportunity for our nation that lies in the enormous shale deposits under Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Appalachia. Combined with previously discovered deposits, the US has an historic opportunity to emerge as a clean energy leader--creating jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing our dependence on foreign oil.

This newfound abundance, combined with the fact that natural gas is twice as clean as coal, is inspiring many state utility leaders to look closely at natural gas as a principal power plant fuel -- a move that would make an immediate, positive difference in our nation's carbon footprint. Currently, the U.S. gets only about 25% of its electric power from natural gas, so there's ample room to grow.

Natural gas also presents our nation with an extraordinary opportunity in the transportation arena. Around the world, there are some 10 million vehicles running on natural gas. Yet only about 130,000 are found on U.S. roads today. The NAT GAS Act, under consideration in Congress, would jump-start this green transportation movement by making it easier for fleets to turn to natural gas. Already, some top U.S. companies are taking the lead. AT&T, for example, operates one of the largest domestic civilian fleets and has committed to rotating to 8,000 natural gas vehicles over the next few years. From U.S. auto manufacturers to fueling and repair stations, the potential for our economy and our environment are significant if more companies do the same.

As President Obama prepared to return home from Copenhagen, he made an important point. He said, "If America leads in developing clean energy, we will lead in growing our economy, in putting our people back to work, and in leaving a stronger and more secure country to our children."

Lofty words? You bet. But clean, abundant and American natural gas can play a starring role today helping make them a reality. If Congress and the Obama Administration are serious about saving jobs while saving the planet, then they should start their search for fresh solutions right here at home. Natural gas is an extraordinary, made-in-America opportunity, and it stands ready today to play a pivotal role in our nation's green recovery and low-carbon future.

Regina Hopper is President and CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance.