Natural gas is rapidly gaining in geopolitical importance. Gas has grown from a marginal fuel consumed in regionally disconnected markets to a fuel that is transported across great distances for consumption in many different economic sectors. Increasingly, natural gas is the fuel of choice for consumers seeking its relatively low environmental impact, especially for electric power generation. As a result, world gas consumption is projected to more than double over the next three decades, rising from 23% to 28% of world total primary energy demand by 2030 and surpassing coal as the world's number two energy source and potentially overtaking oil's share in many large industrialized economies.
The growing importance of natural gas imports to modern economies will force new thinking about energy security. The Energy Forum of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at the Stanford University Institute for International Studies are completing a major effort to investigate the geopolitical consequences of a major shift to natural gas in world energy markets. The study utilizes historical case studies as well as advanced economic modeling to examine the interplay between economic and political factors in the development of natural gas resources; our aim is to shed light on the political challenges that may accompany a shift to a gas-fed world.