Timeline: How We Learned to Love—and Hate—Natural Gas

From bridge fuel to fracking, a history of the little blue flame.


1825 In Chautauqua County, New York, William Hart discovers natural gas reserves. Uses gas to light buildings in Fredonia; town’s official seal features five burners representing those lights.
1940s Worried about German subs targeting tankers, government supports construction of oil pipelines from Texas to East Coast; after war, pipelines approved for gas transport as well.
1950 Natural gas use begins steady climb, will nearly double over next two decades.
1954 Federal government establishes price controls for interstate gas sales, making it more lucrative to sell in states where it’s produced. Shortages ensue across Midwest and East Coast.
1970 Gas’ share of US energy consumption peaks at 30 percent (25 percent today).

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