Natural gas is already cutting into the share of U.S. electricity provided by coal-fired power plants, which has fallen from 53% in 1993 to 42% in 2011. During that period, EIA says natural gas' share nearly doubled -- from 13% to 25% -- and is projected to hit 30% by 2040.
The agency expects U.S. natural gas production will increase 44% between 2011 and 2040, saying almost all this growth will be due to shale gas. Yet It says there are long-term uncertainties about the productivity of shale formations, because many are so large that only limited portions have been widely tested for production.
Fracking has brought economic revival to areas with the largest shale formations, including the Barnett in central Texas, the Eagle Ford in southern Texas, the Bakken in North Dakota and the Marcellus in Pennsylvania and several neighboring states.
Earlier this week, the agency attributed part of the recent U.S. decline in heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions to the nation's switch from coal to natural gas, which emits about half as much CO2 as coal per unit of electricity.
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