Memo to Texas Tribune: Next Time Read What Experts Say on Natural Gas and Climate

Tue, October 16, 2018

Multiple scientific assessments, government data and even some of the environmental groups mentioned in the article have demonstrated the climate benefits of natural gas. In fact, none other than the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the gold standard of climate science – has explained the greenhouse gas benefits of natural gas:

“A key development since AR4 is the rapid deployment of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies, which has increased and diversified the gas supply and allowed for a more extensive switching of power and heat production from coal to gas (IEA, 2012b); this is an important reason for a reduction of GHG emissions in the United States.” (emphasis added)

But the IPCC is not alone. Here are some other notable assessments that the editors at the Texas Tribune either overlooked or refused to acknowledge:

  • U.S. Energy Information Administration (2018): “Between 2005 and 2017, CO2 emissions declined by a cumulative 3,855 MMmt as a result of these two factors… Of this total, 2,360 MMmt can be attributed to the shift in fossil fuels to natural gas, and 1,494 MMmt can be attributed to the increase in non-carbon generation sources.” (emphasis added)
  • Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) (2018): “Our research shows that the growth of renewable energy sources accounted for 31 percent of that 640-million metric ton carbon drop. The impact from renewables is just below the 34-percent contribution the switch from petroleum and coal to natural gas made to the emissions decline – a fact that, until now, has previously gone largely unrecognized.” (emphasis added)
  • Ceres and NRDC (2018): “From 2005 through 2016, power plant CO2 emissions declined by 24 percent. Some of the factors driving this trend include energy efficiency improvements and the displacement of coal by natural gas and renewable energy resources.” (emphasis added)
  • Carnegie Mellon University (2018): “We find that between 2001 and 2017 the average annual CO2 emissions intensity of electricity production in the United States decreased by 30%, from 630 g CO2 kWh−1 to 439 g CO2 kWh−1. This change in CO2 intensity is attributable to an increase in generation from natural gas and wind accompanied by a reduction in coal-fired power generation.” (emphasis added)
  • U.S. Energy Information Administration (2017): “Electricity generation from coal fell 14% from 2014 to 2015. This drop was mostly offset by an increase in electricity generation from natural gas, but because natural gas has only trace amounts of sulfur, the net effect resulted in fewer SO2 emissions” (emphasis added)
  • International Energy Agency (2017): “The emissions from natural gas combustion are well-known and show clear advantages for gas relative to other fossil fuels. CO2 emissions (per unit of energy produced) from gas are around 40% lower than coal and around 20% lower than oil. The edge of natural gas over other combustible fuelsis reinforced when considering emissions of the main air pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5), sulfur oxides, mainly sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOX).” (emphasis added)
  • International Energy Agency (2017): “The biggest drop came from the United States, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3%, or 160 million tonnes, while the economy grew by 1.6%. The decline was driven by a surge in shale gas supplies and more attractive renewable power that displaced coal. Emissions in the United States last year were attheir lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.” (emphasis added)

We’ve come to expect these kinds of dubious assertions from the “Keep It In the Ground” movement, which has always had trouble accepting what climate scientists have said about natural gas and greenhouse gas emissions. But we never thought an outlet like the Texas Tribune would give those kinds of fringe and baseless claims the veneer of objective journalism. That’s disappointing, to say the least.