The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released its annual report on energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States, confirming that the ongoing shift to using natural gas in place of higher-emitting forms of energy is the primary reason the United States leads the world in CO2 reductions since 2005.
The EIA report, U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Emissions, 2017, presents federal data on carbon emissions for the 2017 calendar year. Overall, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell by 47 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017 (0.9 percent) as compared to the prior year. In the same time period, the U.S. economy grew by 2.3 percent.
Natural gas usage is credited for much of our country’s progress in reducing carbon emissions from energy. The report explicitly states that “growth in natural gas consumption contributed to the overall 2017 decline in carbon intensity and emissions,” thanks to natural gas being far less carbon intensive than other traditional fuels. In fact, fuel switching to natural gas for power generation has had an even greater impact on carbon dioxide emission reductions than non-carbon energy sources such as solar and wind energy every year since 2006. As the following EIA chart shows, natural gas can be credited for 61 percent of the total 3.86 billion metric tons of electric generation CO2 reductions since 2005.
The report states that, “Emissions have declined in 7 out of the past 10 years, and energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017 were 849 MMmt (14%) below 2005 levels.” This trend has coincided with the domestic boom in natural gas production, made possible by hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling techniques that made natural gas trapped in shale basins accessible for the first time. Over the past 10 years, our country’s natural gas production has surged 33 percent from 21 trillion cubic feet in 2008 to 28 trillion cubic feet in 2017, making the fuel more abundant and affordable than ever before.
Natural gas also became an even cleaner source of energy in 2017, with emissions from its usage declining by 1.5 percent, despite natural gas consumption increasing last year. New, efficient technologies deployed from production fields to power plants have made it possible for natural gas usage to be less carbon intensive than ever before.
Collectively, the new data from the EIA show once again that the natural gas industry has helped our country become more environmentally friendly than any other energy provider in the past decade.
With developments in new technologies such as carbon capture quickly becoming more feasible by the day, we can continue to expect natural gas to provide an affordable and reliable source of energy while continually becoming more environmentally friendly in the future.