The Conference Board of Canada has released a gloomy outlook for Canada’s natural gas industry, adding urgency to the push to open new export markets.

The Ottawa-based think tank says industry revenues this year are expected to be 69% lower than they were in 2005.

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Jobs tied to natural gas this year are expected to drop below 20,000, from 30,000 nine years ago.

Unusually cold weather boosted North American natural gas prices last winter as inventories were drawn down for home heating.

But the Conference Board says higher prices spurred drilling activity in the U.S., quickly restoring storage levels.

The report says issues surrounding liquefied natural gas export projects planned for the B.C. coast, such as the tax regime, need to be figured out quickly if Canadian gas is to find its way to lucrative global markets.

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