Climate Group: Natural Gas, Not Renewables, Is Largest Factor In Emissions Decline Sep 12, 2017 James Taylor , Contributor forbes.com
Natural gas’s growing share of electricity production has been the largest driver of declining U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, the climate advocacy group Carbon Brief reports. Carbon Brief points out that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined 14 percent since 2005, with natural gas as the single largest reason.
Electricity generation is the largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, Carbon Brief observes. Fundamental changes in electricity markets since 2005 have transformed the U.S. electricity sector from one of growing emissions to one of declining emissions.
“Before 2005, U.S. carbon emissions were marching upwards year after year, with little sign of slowing down,” Carbon Brief noted. “After this point, they fell quickly, declining 14% from their peak by the end of 2016.”
“Increases in [natural] gas electricity generation is the largest driver, accounting for 33% of the total emissions reduction in 2016,” Carbon Brief reported. “Gas is far from zero-carbon, but reduces CO2 in the U.S. because it mostly displaces high-carbon coal.”
In its report, Carbon Brief linked to an article by Yale Climate Communications, a global warming activist organization, which pointed out that “carbon dioxide emissions from new gas power plants are as much as 66 percent lower than those of existing coal power plants.”
According to Yale Climate Communications, “About half of this [66-percent] reduction is due to differing carbon intensities of the fuels (natural gas emits 40 percent less carbon than coal per unit of heat). The other half is due to the higher generation efficiency of natural gas (new natural gas plants convert heat to power at upwards of 50 percent efficiency, while typical coal plants only operate at about 33 percent efficiency).”
According to Carbon Brief, natural gas has reduced 50% more emissions since 2005 than wind and solar power combined.
Carbon Brief identifies low natural gas prices as a key component in the growth of natural gas electricity generation. Low natural gas prices are one reason Carbon Brief projects U.S. emissions to continue declining under the Trump administration. Low natural gas prices will likely induce more power producers to switch from coal power to natural gas.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas’s share of U.S. electricity generation has risen from 21% to 34% during the past decade. At the same time, coal’s share has dropped from 48% to 30%. With natural gas prices so low, inflation-adjusted electricity prices have declined along with emissions of carbon dioxide and air pollutants.
Unless politics interfere with the ongoing conversion to natural gas electricity, expect carbon dioxide emissions and electricity prices to continue declining together.
Skip, thanks for the article. If people would just read and listen.
Too many are stuck in a partisan echo chamber. They may read but it is unlikely to persuade them to modify a position of which they are passionate but can't recite the factual issues involved. They just believe with all their might because they do. Nothing illustrates this better than the Hard Greens who oppose all energy sourced from hydrocarbons even though it would create an extreme hardship on those who can not afford significantly higher energy costs. They tend to focus on fracking and pipelines although there is little to no facts that either represent much of a constant real danger to people. You know, the same people who attack climate change deniers for rejecting science. Total hypocrisy.
The deniers of man influenced climate change reject the overwhelming scientific evidence and preponderance of climate scientists (>97%) who are convinced that global warming is the gravest threat to our way of life and future well being. Not one iota less hypocrisy and involving even greater although longer term consequences. There was a completely revolting opinion piece in the Shreveport Times today by a denier that does what both sides do, view it as an us and them battle with the thems being some kind of two headed monster. I'd call it sad if it just wasn't so ultimately destructive.
As the article points out there is plenty of middle ground room to lower emissions and maintain the bargain prices Americans pay for energy. Emphasize natural gas fired electric generation. Phase out coal use on an accelerated timeline. Continue to support advancements in renewables with the knowledge that they will become more efficient and less costly over time. And continue regulations that mandate greater fuel efficiency in motor vehicles and reward efforts that conserve energy. Market forces will take care of improved and cheaper Electric Vehicles and battery technology that will support renewables. As usual we make our greatest advancements when the public and private sectors work together. In our case, the obvious example being horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracture stimulation (fracking).