BUSINESS

Natural gas boom could save U.S. households $1,200 a year, report says

American consumers are savings hundreds of dollars a year thanks to a natural gas boom that has pushed down energy costs.

The average U.S. household already saves between $425 to $725 a year as technology such as hydraulic fracturing unlocks previously inaccessible stores of natural gas, according to a Boston Consulting Group report.

Those savings -- which shoppers see in both lower utility bills and cheaper prices on goods -- could jump to $1,200 or more by 2020, the report said. That amounts to a nearly 10% boost in discretionary income for many American households.

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"A nearly 10% rise in consumer discretionary spending would give economic growth a major lift," said Hal Sirkin, a BCG senior partner and coauthor of the report. "It has massive implications."

"It's a lot of money," he added. "The savings is already happening in small doses, in bits and pieces."

The average U.S. family spends about $9,000 on energy a year, the report said. One third is spent on direct costs such as air conditioning, heating and gas, while another two-thirds are costs passed onto consumers from companies that make and deliver goods.

The report estimated that 30% to 50% of savings enjoyed by companies seeing lower energy bills are passed onto shoppers.

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