PENNSYLVANIA -- Many analysts say natural gas is one of the brightest hopes for America's energy future.
However, the New York Times reports that hundreds of industry emails, internal documents, and data analysis from thousands of wells show drilling for natural gas in shale rock may not be as successful as drilling companies claim.
The newspaper says documentation shows natural gas may be more difficult and expensive to extract and the wells less productive than what industry leaders are reporting.
Matt Pitzarella with Range Resources, a company drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania, disagrees.
"Range, like other energy firms, is increasing its natural gas production target because of an abundant supply," he told CBN News.
The company plans to triple production to 600 million cubic feet per day by the end of 2012.
Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are believed to be trapped in the shale, but recent advances in drilling technology are freeing the gas from its rock prison.
Drilling companies say they're getting better at removing it all the time and getting more natural gas from each well than originally anticipated.
We're entering a golden age of natural gas right now," Pitzarella told CBN News.
"We were on a one-way ticket to becoming just as dependent on liquefied natural gas from Russia as we are on imported oil from the Middle East and other parts of the world," he continued.
"We now have a 200-year supply of natural gas and growing in the United States of America," he said.
Pennsylvania is a growing contributor to that supply, with the number of wells jumping from just four in 2005 to nearly 1,500 last year.
Chesapeake Energy Corporation is another example of a company reporting better than expected results in the Marcellus.
Chesapeake now predicts that each well will yield more than 7 billion cubic feet of natural gas over its lifespan -- more than double the original estimate.
However, potential productivity isn't the only issue raising the eyebrows of skeptics.
The Marcellus Shale drilling boom is not below the surface when it comes to controversy. In fact, its regulation is the subject of debate by lawmakers here at the state capitol in Harrisburg, Pa.
The natural gas industry is also on the radar of environmental groups, who are concerned about the impact of the drilling on the water, air, and landscape.
Yet, in spite of the doubters, there is common ground.
Both environmental groups and industry leaders are quick to share how natural gas burns more cleanly than coal and oil, producing fewer emissions.