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A role for wind in averting US energy crisis caused by thirst for natural gas

The US's unquenchable thirst for natural gas is pushing it towards an energy crisis and an urgent need for renewable energy resources, said Matthew Simmons, president of the Texas-based investment bank Simmons & Company International, speaking at the wind industry's global conference held Chicago in late March. Electricity demand in the US is growing and until recently the assumption was that it would be met with natural gas generation. In fact, a "power buying spree" in the early part of this decade resulted in the addition of 220,000 MW of new generation, 98% of which was gas-fired. "In doing so, America accidentally bet its future on natural gas," he said. From a supply perspective it turned out to be a bad bet. Domestic conventional gas supplies peaked in 1973 and the discovery of new vintage wells is in sharp decline, said Simmons. Globally, the situation is as uncertain. Energy demand is soaring, while oil, and likely gas, supplies are peaking. "These are complex and serious issues which should put the need for wind in the future in the proper context." Also touching on gas as wind's main competitor, Terry Hudgens of US power marketer PPM Energy, said the American Wind Energy Association's target of 100,000 MW of installed capacity by 2020 is "equivalent to about 10% of the natural gas usage in the US today."

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