Despite the concerns, it seems as if the burgeoning natural-gas juggernaut in North America is more unstoppable than ever. Natural gas emits far fewer pollutants than coal and arguably has less stigma attached to it than nuclear. Furthermore, natural gas can more easily supplement growing reliance on renewable sources such as wind and solar energy. It's fast becoming a question not of whether natural gas will play a larger role in the world's energy mix, but a question of how big that role will be. "We're clearly only getting started—we potentially have centuries worth of this resource but we're just in the first inning of the game," Klaber says.
Can anything derail the industry's meteoric rise? Public perception is key, Klaber says, and if the industry doesn't navigate those choppy waters with grace, the resulting backlash could put more obstacles in the way of drilling and natural-gas extraction. Still, with the economic shot in the arm the industry gives the local and national economies, there's little chance development will slow anytime soon.