So how did we get here?
It is by no means certain we will have shortages, but even the possibility - in a country with extraordinary energy resources - is a mess that could and should have been foreseen.
What for most of its history has been just a local gas industry in eastern Australia has been transformed in recent years by the creation of an export market in liquefied natural gas (LNG). Three plants at Gladstone in Queensland now sell two-thirds of the gas produced to Asia.
It has been the major reason the price of gas used for heating, cooking and electricity has roughly tripled - the international price sets the domestic price.
As this developed, the industry aggressively pushed to access untapped wells using unconventional methods such as fracking for coal seam gas. It sparked a backlash that brought together unlikely bedfellows - farmers, environmentalists, tub-thumping conservative broadcaster Alan Jones - and led to bans in some states.
In NSW, the amount of land available to the industry was significantly reduced. In Victoria, which barely has an onshore gas industry, a bipartisan moratorium covers both fracking and traditional means of extraction. The Northern Territory, said to have enough gas to service the country, is holding an independent inquiry into the issue.
As always, the debate is rife with politics and self-interest.
The federal government and industry accuse the states of pushing up the price by limiting supply. They have a point.
Victoria responds with a stronger point, and one that is much harder to tackle: that there is plenty of gas already available and it is being sent offshore. Australia is expected to be the world's biggest LNG exporter by the end of the decade.
Into this fracas waded the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), which last week warned that there could be shortages over the next few years unless something is done. Cue mild political panic.
Are we really going to run out?
Whether by design or otherwise, the operator's statement is a shot across the bows of the political establishment. As the Grattan Institute's Tony Wood puts it, it is effectively a reminder that if you don't buy milk on the way home you won't have any in the morning.
Governments understandably don't like interfering with contracts already in place, so finding a solution is not straight-forward. But there are things that could be done - and the political imperative for all governments to ensure we don't run out is huge.
Whatever steps are taken, there is no prospect of prices falling to historic levels. Those days are over.
What are the answers being looked at?
AEMO has a list of recommendations including that LNG producers redirect some gas meant for export to domestic use, the introduction of incentives to see what extra gas can be extracted from existing and new fields, and building a proposed pipeline from the Northern Territory to eastern states.
It says the controversial Narrabri gas project in NSW could probably get rid of the supply problem on its own, but also notes that other energy sources including storage - think batteries or pumped-hydro - may be viable alternatives to using gas for electricity.
Elsewhere, there have been calls for governments to introduce a reservation policy that carves out some gas for domestic use only. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has warned of sovereign risk issues, but is attracted to a Queensland Labor government plan to set aside some gas from new projects.
Federal Labor supports a national interest test being applied to all proposals. Notably, spokesman Mark Butler would not back state moratoriums. But he said Canberra needed to take the lead in building community consent for controversial gas projects, including examining the impact on water resources.
The companies essentially just want more gas (and for the government not to hit it with an effectively designed resource rent tax in the May budget). It is unclear what, if any, concessions they will be prepared to make.
Where does climate change fit into this?
Good question. While some people try, the debate over energy cannot be divorced from the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Gas is a fossil fuel, but demand for it has been on the rise because it is seen as a transition fuel in the shift to clean energy. It can provide electricity 24-7 while producing roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of burning black coal.
There has been a widespread push for a bipartisan policy - including an emissions intensity scheme, a form of carbon trading - to drive investment in the new power plants needed.
It has been widely assumed this would initially lead to a shift from coal to gas-fired power, but those assumptions are based on the idea that gas would be much cheaper than it is today. It is now pushing up power bills, and electricity wholesale prices are double what they were a year ago.
It is now quite likely gas-fired electricity may be bypassed. If you look across the country, South Australia has an obvious short-term need for it - both its coal generators have shut, so it relies on wind, gas and a limited connection to Victoria.
But unless there is a dramatic policy rethink, it is difficult to see gas power being competitive in other states.
It may even be left behind in South Australia, if an extraordinary exchange on Twitter this week can be believed. Tesla chief Elon Musk promised fellow billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, of Australian tech company Atlassian, that his company could deliver at least 100 megawatt hours of battery storage to the state in 100 days if political and investment barriers were overcome. Pressed on whether he was serious, Musk promised if he failed to get it up in that timeframe he would let the state have it for free. Let's see.
The Prime Minister likes to say the energy debate needs to be stripped of ideology. He's right, of course. Coal and gas will continue to be part of the mix for years ahead. But there is mounting evidence that the cheapest and most flexible option may involve a combination of clean energy, storage, better connection between the states, improved energy efficiency and more sophisticated grid management at times of peak demand.