U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that the Appalachian Basin saw significant carbon emissions reductions from 2005 to 2015, both in the electricity generation sector and overall. In fact, Ohio led the nation by reducing its overall emissions by a whopping 57 million metric tons (MMT) and emissions from electricity generation by 50 MMT.
When combined, the Appalachian Basin (Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) accounted for 18 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions reductions and 21.5 percent of total U.S. carbon emissions reductions for electricity generation. And it can all be traced to increased natural gas use made possible by fracking.
Further, 84 percent of the Basin’s total emissions reductions occurred in the electricity sector. Considering that EIA data show natural gas-fired electricity generation increased in the Basin from a mere 0.3 percent in 2005 to nearly 22 percent in 2015, it’s hard to deny that natural gas has played a major role in decreasing carbon emissions.
In fact, electricity generation emissions reductions represented 42 percent of total U.S. emissions reductions during this time period. At the same time, natural gas’ share of the U.S. electricity generation mix went from 19 percent to 33 percent.
Appalachian Basin Has More Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants on the Way
The best part of this whole story is that this is only the beginning. As EID reported last year, more than $21 billion is being invested in new natural gas-fired power plants in the Appalachian Basin. These new plants will bring investment dollars, jobs and reduce emissions within the basin – a win-win for the economy and the environment. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of some of these projects:
The New York Energy Conundrum Continues
As EID has discussed frequently, the situation in New York is one that leaves many scratching their heads. The state could be a part of the Appalachian Basin success story, considering it has ample shale reserves and a long history of oil and gas development. Instead, New York banned fracking in 2014 and has blocked multiple pipeline projects even as it continues to increase its natural gas use, including use for electricity generation. This has resulted in New York (and New England) paying incredibly high prices for natural gas and electricity during the recent cold spell.
Still, New York has also experienced some pretty incredible emissions reductions, particularly in the electricity generation sector. Electricity generation emissions reductions represent 61 percent of the state’s total emissions reductions since 2005.
Now, some might be thinking that this has to be the result of New York’s aggressive strategy to incorporate more renewables into its electric grid, and that certainly has some merit. But it’s not renewables that drove New York’s electric generation and therefore total emissions reductions, as the following chart illustrates.
While solar and wind both saw substantial increases in the number of megawatt hours generated from each – especially since there was no solar electricity generation in New York in 2005 – collectively they only represented three percent of the state’s electricity generation in 2015.
Meanwhile natural gas was the fuel of choice for electricity in 2015 – with total megawatt hours increasing by 79 percent over the decade and natural gas going from 22 percent to 41 percent of total electricity generation mix from 2005 to 2015.
In other words: New York has an abundant supply of natural gas and extremely strong natural gas demand – but has banned developing it using the most modern technologies. New York has increased its consumption of natural gas substantially – but denies permits for the pipelines needed to meet that increased demand. And New York has clutched to health concerns as the primary reason for its decisions regarding natural gas – but it is natural gas that is improving air quality in the state.
It is undeniable that natural gas – particularly when used in the electricity sector – is playing a major role in reducing carbon emissions regionally and across the United States. And that includes in states like New York that have banned the development of the resource within its borders. Further, in the Appalachian Basin, where significant investments are being made for new natural gas-fired power generation, the story has only just begun and will only get better from here.