U.S. electric generating capacity fueled by natural gas tripled between 1999 and 2003, increasing from 80,000 MW to 239,000 MW in a mere four years. The pundits have assumed a corresponding increase in gas consumption to fuel all these new generators, but this has not occurred. Evidently, there is a lot of gas-fired generation sitting around not doing much of anything. U.S. Energy Information Administration data on both gas-fired generation capacity and fuel consumption for the years 2001-03 vividly illustrate the paradox. In 2001 there was 141,000 MW of capacity burning 5.3 Bcf of gas. In 2003 there was 239,000 MW of capacity, which burned 5.1 Bcf of gas. Although gas-fired capacity increased 70 percent, gas consumption by these efficient plants actually declined slightly. Total gas consumption has remained essentially flat since the spate of new generation began to be built in 1999, indicating that the enormous amount of new capacity is consuming little, if any, additional gas. Another assumption was that the new plants would run more often during the summer to meet air conditioning loads. This hasn?t happened either. Summer gas consumption has remained essentially flat since 1998. The new capacity is much more efficient than older plants, so some of the old inefficient equipment has undoubtedly been replaced by the new. Nevertheless, I am forced to conclude that a large number of new power plants are operating very little?otherwise, their fuel consumption would show up in the gas statistics. Will the new plants begin to run more often, driving up gas consumption in the future? USEIA thinks so, projecting that gas burned for electric generation will increase at an annual rate of 3 percent. It cites this as the driving factor in its projected 1.5 percent annual increase in total consumption. Of course, the agency also projects that gas prices will fall significantly, so I take all their projections with a grain or three of salt. Meanwhile, there are probably some terrific deals to be had on underutilized gas-fired power plants.