Natural Gas Delivers Climate Benefits
Mon, April 27, 2020
Though COVID-19 and the recent oil price wars may have shaken the oil and gas industry, energy development will march onward. The critical role that natural gas plays not only in our everyday lives but in addressing climate change domestically and across the world simply cannot be overlooked — and Texas is playing a central role.
When used for electricity, natural gas releases about 50 percent fewer CO2 emissions than coal. Pairing these climate benefits with its low cost distinguishes natural gas as a clear economic and climate winner. The transition to natural gas for electricity generation has enabled the U.S. to experience the largest emissions reduction “in the history of energy,” according to International Energy Agency Director Fatih Birol.
Today, the United States is the world’s largest natural gas producer, a major exporter and a key player in the global energy market. Not only has the U.S. significantly reduced its own emissions, but through natural gas exports — many of which originate here in Texas — we’re also able to deliver major climate benefits to our nearby trading partners in Mexico and Canada. Considering that Texas exports more products to Mexico than any other country, the strong energy relationship between the two should be no surprise.
Mexico’s appetite for American natural gas has been significant in recent years. In 2019, 43 percent of U.S. natural gas exports went to Mexico, almost all of it transported via natural gas pipelines. Over a decade ago, electric generation from natural gas only held 30 percent of the Mexican market. Thanks in large part to imports from the U.S., 60 percent of the electricity Mexico consumed in 2018 was generated from natural gas.
The transition to natural gas for electricity generation has brought Mexico closer to the cleaner skies it desperately needs. From 2012 to 2018, Mexico’s carbon emissions per capita fell from 4.17 metric tons to 3.79 metric tons, even as the country’s population increased by almost 10 million.
Like the rest of the world in the COVID-19 crisis, Mexico’s demand for natural gas has been temporarily dampened. However, the long-term outlook remains encouraging: The country’s consumption of affordable natural gas will grow over the next several decades. In the past 10 years, Mexico’s natural gas consumption has steadily increased, and it is projected to continue doing so.
Canada, despite being a leading producer of natural gas on its own, still turns to the United States to augment its natural gas supply. In fact, 98 percent of Canada’s natural gas imports and 17 percent of Canada’s natural gas consumption come from the United States. As Canada’s consumption of natural gas has increased over the years, its emissions intensity has decreased. Between 1990 and 2017, the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted per person in Canada decreased 10 percent.
Beyond the climate benefits that natural gas delivers our trade partners, natural gas is also a key element in a cleaner energy future here at home. Some may be surprised to learn that natural gas and renewables are complementary, not incompatible. It’s no accident that Texas is not only the largest natural gas-producing and -consuming state, but also by far the largest producer of wind energy. If it were its own country, Texas would rank as one of the top five wind producers in the world.
While leaps and bounds have been made in battery technology, renewable energy still cannot meet peak energy demand on its own, due to the intermittency of sunshine and the wind. Natural gas is a reliable and affordable solution to fill the gap.
The immediate future may be difficult to predict, and we should not gloss over the real economic hardship that we face, particularly those who work in Texas energy. But in the long term, rest assured: Texas-produced natural gas will play a critical role in defining our low-carbon future.