Energy Department Credits Natural Gas for Declining Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Friday, March 17, 2017

new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell by 2.7 percent in 2015, thanks in large part to increased use of natural gas.

Power plants have been steadily increasing their use of natural gas in recent years, tapping into an abundant supply of the clean-burning fuel unlocked by fracking. According to the EIA, that increased use has contributed directly to falling greenhouse gas emissions in the United States:

“Natural gas CO2 emissions have increased since 2009, as the natural gas share of electricity generation has grown at the expense of coal, partially offsetting the decline in energy-related CO2 emissions from petroleum and other liquids and coal. Natural gas CO2 emissions were still slightly lower than those from coal in 2015. However, natural gas produces more energy for the same amount of emissions as coal—contributing to the 2015 decline in total emissions.” (emphasis added)

EIA also credits the expanded use of renewables like wind and solar for helping the United States emit less carbon dioxide. But the data show natural gas has been the primary driver of falling emissions since 2006.

Renewables prevented the emission of 962 million metric tons of carbon dioxide since 2006. Over that same period, natural gas prevented the emissions of more than 1.5 billion metric tons. In other words, natural gas has reduced 63 percent more CO2 than renewables have since 2006.

Today’s release from EIA is the latest in a string of federal reports pointing to declining greenhouse gas emissions from oil and natural gas development. Data released last month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems have dropped since 2011. The U.S. Senate is currently considering a measure to repeal a rule targeting methane emissions from oil and natural gas production on federal lands.