Scientific Consensus: Natural Gas Delivers Climate Benefits

 

 

There is a growing scientific consensus that the fracking boom is helping us address climate change. In fact, greater reliance on clean-burning natural gas in recent years has yielded significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The United States leads the world in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and the single biggest reason is the increased use of natural gas in the power sector.

But don’t just take our word for here. Here is what the U.N. IPCC has said about fracking and 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)

 

Here is a sampling of other recent peer-reviewed studies and expert analyses on the climate benefits of natural gas:


Center for Global Environmental Research (2019)

“We found that the coal-to-gas shift is consistent with climate stabilization objectives for the next 50-100 years. Our finding is robust under a range of leakage rates and uncertainties in emissions data and metrics. It becomes conditional to the leakage rate in some locations only if we employ a set of metrics that essentially focus on short-term effects. Our case for the coal-to-gas shift is stronger than previously found…”


 

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)


 

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 fuels is 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 at their lowest level since 1992, a period during which the economy grew by 80%.” (emphasis added)