Plummeting natural-gas prices are pushing U.S. industries into virgin terrain, even beginning to dislodge cheap Western coal from its once-untouchable perch as the nation's favorite fuel for power production.
Indeed, the U.S. is producing more gas, so far in 2012, than during the same period last year, according to industry consultant Bentek Energy.
For this time of year, an unprecedented amount of this gas is in underground storage: depleted oil and gas fields, aquifers and salt caverns. Storage facilities are now 56% full nationwide, the highest ever for this time of year, and far above the 37% level this time last year. In Western Canada, a big gas-producing region, storage was more than 76% full in mid-March.
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