Stymied in their plans to build coal-burning power plants, American utilities are turning to natural gas to meet expected growth in demand, risking a new upward spiral in the price of that fuel.
the executives see plants fired by natural gas as the only kind that can be constructed quickly and can supply reliable power day and night.
But North American supplies of natural gas will be flat or declining in coming years, according to the Energy Information Administration. The United States already has high natural gas prices, a problem for homeowners and many industries, like chemical and fertilizer producers. Some experts fear a boom in gas demand for electricity generation will send prices even higher.
Now, with many coal plants being canceled and demand for electricity rising by 2 percent or so a year, the prospect is that utilities will be forced to build and use a new generation of gas-fired plants regardless of the operating cost — and consumers will bear the burden of higher electricity rates.
All the more reason consumers should want utilities to build more nuclear plants. The chart below shows the U.S. was achieving fuel diversity from the '50s to the '80s. Then in the 1990s up until now, gas has been the preferred choice of fuel.