To here the natural gas industry tell it, shale gas is the silver bullet that will solve all our country’s energy problems, prod the national economy back into productivity and cure the common cold, all at once.

Well, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and such is the case with shale gas.

According to a story by New York Times Ian Urbina, the U.S. Geological Survey has released an estimate of the amount of natural gas contained in the Marcellus Shale play, the giant rock formation that exists deep underground beneath New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and a couple of other state.

According to the USGS report, the Marcellus Shale formation contains about 84 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas, far less than the 410 trillion cubic feet the federal Energy Information Administration calculated in their estimates.

From Urbina’s NYT story:

As a result, the Energy Information Administration, which is responsible for quantifying oil and gas supplies, has said it will slash its official estimate for the Marcellus Shale by nearly 80 percent, a move that is likely to generate new questions about how the agency calculates its estimates and why it was so far off in its projections.

The decision by the agency to lower the estimates comes amid growing scrutiny from Congress about how the administration calculates its numbers and why it depends on outside and industry-tied consultants to produce some of its reports.

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