One source of fuel that is not only clean and in abundant supply but has already demonstrated it can be effectively adopted on a large scale is natural gas.

Last week, MIT released a study that is being widely cited as providing some of the best evidence yet that natural gas can – and must — play a critical role in the country’s energy future. In fact, the study finds that the country has a 92-year supply of natural gas, based on current consumption levels.

While natural gas has long been recognized as a major natural resource in the U.S., the relatively recent large-scale production of natural gas from massive shale fields has proven to be a game changer: Over the next 20 years, gas production in the Marcellus shale and other fields in the Northeast and Great Lakes States is projected to expand by 78%. That, in turn, should help lower the price of natural gas to make it more competitive with other power sources.

Sounds like a simple enough analysis, but it’s hard to overstate what it means. In natural gas, we have a homegrown power source that is good for the environment, good for national security (any home grown fuel is), and also a major boon for the economy.

Pennsylvania State Senator Mary Jo White recently described the Marcellus shale as “the greatest economic, clean-energy opportunity of our lifetime.” Here is what some other individuals, small businesses – and even family farmers – in Pennsylvania had to say about how development of the Marcellus shale had stimulated employment and overall economic development in the region.

While we’re gratified to see natural gas getting the recognition it deserves, we also know that realizing all of these strong projections for future growth will depend on our continued ability to produce in key shale fields, which hold such a large share of the total national reserves. And that will depend on all of us working together to show that these reserves are a critical piece of our national energy supply that can and must be developed responsibly.

In the coming weeks this blog will devote more attention to natural gas and shale, the promise it holds, and what we can all do to see that that promise is realized.