The stunning drop in natural gas prices from $13 in 2008 to less than $3 today for a thousand cubic feet has saved consumers big money in just gas bills. Kathryn Klaber calculates the cumulative consumer savings at $3,200 and that gas utility rates at Pennsylvania's 9 major gas utilities are down on average 42.5% since 2008. http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/inquirer/20120928_Marcellus_find_transforms_Pa_.html. That's about right. But the number does not include any consumer savings in lower electricity bills that have resulted as well from the big drop in gas prices.
These natural gas savings have been enormously important to families with incomes at or below the Pennsylvania median level of about $49,000 before taxes and have been literally the difference between having heat or not, during the winter for thousands of poor Pennsylvanians. For poor families, government heating assistance programs have delivered in most cases much less than half of the financial assistance provided by the $3,200 in lower gas prices.
The impact of high energy costs on public safety and health is too often ignored. Yet, the tragic truth is that utility shut-offs cause desperate families to turn to dangerous heating and lighting substitutes that have caused numerous fires that have killed more than 50 Pennsylvanians over the last 25 years.
That fact should not be lost in discussions about gas production and energy policy.