U.S. carbon dioxide emissions continue to track lower than year 2000 levels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Jan. 23, extending this century’s downward trend in U.S. emissions.
Natural Gas Plays Key Role
The primary reason for emissions remaining on a downward trajectory this century is the increasing number of natural gas-fired power plants. Recent discoveries of immense amounts of natural gas trapped in shale rock, coupled with the development of new technologies to capture and produce such shale gas, are driving natural gas prices down. U.S. power plants currently produce 50 percent more power from natural gas than during the year 2000. Natural gas power production emits approximately 40 percent less carbon dioxide than coal power.
Additionally, natural gas power slashes many pollutants tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by more than 80 percent.
Promising Emissions Future
EIA projects the percentage of U.S. power generated by natural gas will gradually increase. Natural gas currently powers 24 percent of the nation’s electricity. EIA projects natural gas will power 27 percent of the nation’s electricity in s2035.
EIA also projects very little increase in future U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions will remain below1999 levels until at least 2035, EIA projects.
If natural gas usage exceeds EIA projections, carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be even lower than currently projected.
Free Markets Work
“The EIA report shows once again that free markets are the best means of providing environmental stewardship in a manner that does not impoverish people,” Heartland Institute science director Jay Lehr said. “Private companies have recently discovered vast amounts of natural gas trapped in shale rock, developed new technologies to recover the shale gas, and brought the natural gas to market in a cost-competitive manner. These private initiatives are the primary reason why U.S. carbon dioxide emissions remain below 2000 levels despite a growing population and more economic activity.”
Benefits of Shale Gas
“Environmental activists reveal that they are more anti-energy and anti-progress than pro-environment when they oppose the hydraulic fracturing techniques that recover natural gas from shale formations,” Lehr explained. “Not only is hydraulic fracturing environmentally safe, but the resultant shale gas allows us to produce electricity with a minimum of emissions.”
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.