Document Type


Publication Date



This article overviews the role that natural gas has played over time in the United States. It identifies and surveys five key historical roles that natural gas has served: (1) as an early competitor for lighting, (2) as a nuisance byproduct in oil production, (3) as a heating and appliance fuel, especially as pipeline technology improved, (4) as a catalyst for legal change during the energy crises, and (5) as an increasingly important fuel for electricity production. The article then examines the likely role of natural gas as way to address climate change in the United States, using the ideas of a "bridge" fuel, a "dead end," and the Clean Power Plan as lenses. Commonalities and differences in models estimating natural gas use under the Clean Power Plan are identified and summarized.