Two-Way Street

Natural Gas' Silver Lining...For Some


The latest earnings season had its fair share of short revenues, dimmed outlooks, and layoff announcements. But for a few companies and industry segments, there is a silver lining: energy costs are staying in line, thanks to the natural gas glut.

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"One of the reasons we did better than most people thought in the quarter was despite a slowing economy, I have a feedstock advantage here in the United States for the first time if a long time," said Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, in discussing his company's results on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Wednesday.

The natural gas advantage helps on two levels. Chemical companies, plastic makers, and fertilizer outfits use natural gas to make key ingredients for their products. Other companies, like metal workers and utilities, can use natural gas to produce energy for their operations or power customers.

In both cases, the lower natural gas prices brought about by greater use of fracking technology has been a benefit. That same technology has also benefited oil users, since fracking technology has also upped oil production.

(Read More: What Is Fracking?)

"Our natural gas consumption has gone up 150 percent for this year versus last year so that's the kind of renaissance that's occurring in the energy industry that we haven't seen before," American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins said on CNBC's "Mad Money".

Indeed the drop in natural prices—roughly $12 per million BTUs in 2008 versus roughly $4 now—has some executives believing the situation will benefit not just particular companies and industries, but the economy as a whole.

"It's going to be transformative for our economy, absolutely," said Loew's CEO James Tisch during a CNBC appearance earlier in the month. "…We produce 65 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day… at the same price, we could produce 85 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. For every additional billion cubic feet we produce, my calculation is that creates an additional 7,000 to 10,000 jobs."

Of course low gas prices aren't helping everyone. Natural gas suppliers like Noble Energy, ConocoPhillips, and Occidental all reported hits to their balance sheets because of low prices. And those prices also have some manufacturers moving from coal to natural gas for their energy supply. Railroads, which rely on coal for a major part of their business, are also feeling negative effects.