Thanks to America's ongoing energy revolution, oil isn't the only source of energy that's selling at bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
Natural gas is too – and it's saving consumers some big bucks.
A recent study by IHS Economic, commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers, says that record-sized increases in U.S. shale gas production and its accompanying lower natural gas prices in 2015 contributed $156 billion to real disposable income — which means the average American family had an extra $1,337 in disposable income.
This study comes on the heels of another analysis, from the Energy Information Administration, which said that fracking improved the average cost of living for most Americans by nearly $750 per year since 2008.
These are the fruits of the U.S. energy revolution. Increased production has led to reduced fuel costs and lower utility bills, which, of course, lead to big savings — for everyone, especially low-income families who spend a larger percentage of their disposable income on electricity, heating costs and transportation fuels than those in other income brackets.
"Going forward, lower natural gas prices will result in benefits to consumer purchasing power and confidence, higher profits among businesses and improvements in cost-competitiveness for domestic manufacturers relative to their international competitors," the report says.
There's really no better way to illustrate how Americans benefit from producing more energy here at home than this.
But there's a catch.
With manufacturing and power generation serving as key drivers, total natural gas demand is poised to increase 40 percent over the next decade. U.S. supply, meanwhile, is expected to swell about 48 percent over the next decade to meet this new demand.
Which means the urgency for more energy infrastructure to gather, transport, store and export natural gas has never been greater — for multiple reasons.
"Shale gas production has created new flow patterns that are causing existing pipelines to reverse flow and will necessitate the construction of new pipeline capacity," the NAM report said.
That's one reason.
Here's another: "There is a mismatch, geographically, in the growth in natural gas demand and supply in the U.S. lower 48." The U.S. has the energy resources it needs but lacks the pipelines and transmission lines it requires to transport energy to where it's needed.
And there's only one way to fix this: Build more. We have the energy — which is a great thing. Now let's make sure we have the job-creating infrastructure projects that make sure our energy revolution reaches everyone.
Some work is underway to correct this. IHS estimates that about $25.8 billion was spent to build 6,028 miles of new natural gas pipelines in 2015, and it expects this type of growth to continue. But it won't be not enough. "The rate of capacity additions could slow over the short terms," the report says. "Additions are needed over the medium to long term to meet IHS's view of supply and demand fundamentals."
Unfortunately, to date, our efforts aren't fitting the bill.
Just look at the long-awaited Keystone XL Pipeline, rejected by Obama administration even though its own State Department said it would've supported more than 42,000 jobs, contributed billions to the economy and not significantly increased greenhouse-gas emissions.
Look at the Constitution Pipeline, a necessary, safe infrastructure project that would've brought clean-burning natural gas to the greater Northeast but was effectively killed off when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo denied the water quality permits it required.
Kinder Morgan, meanwhile, suspended work on its $1 billion, job-generating Palmetto Pipeline after Georgia lawmakers approved a moratorium on permits for petroleum pipelines.
The list of axed or delayed projects are endless. So, too, are the list of ones under attack, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would support thousands in jobs, billions in economic activity, and millions in annual local tax revenue for communities throughout Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, if constructed.
When did infrastructure projects and helping average Americans meet their basic energy needs become controversial?
More of us need to stand up and demand that our elected officials start making sensible, informed decisions about our energy future. A loud minority who blindly oppose anything related to energy development should not be given any deference.
And if we want to continue paying low prices for fuel, electricity and other of life's must-haves, this will need to change.
Energy is embedded in nearly every good and service we use, and it's the foundation for virtually every aspect of our lives. Investing in its infrastructure and improving ways we make and deliver clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy is not only a top-priority for our economy and our budgets, but, often forgotten, our health. Per the EIA, fracked gas is the primary reason why emissions from the power industry have been reduced to 1993 levels, 21 percent below 2005 levels.
Michael Whatley is executive vice president of Consumer Energy Alliance.Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.