Trending to lower emissions - Energy Factor
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Trending to lower emissions

Suzanne McCarron - 05/12/2017

As Axios journalists Ben Geman and Amy Harder point out, “three makes a trend.”

They are referring to the latest projection from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that natural gas will be the country’s leading fuel for electricity generation for the third summer in a row.

That’s pretty extraordinary for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that one needn’t think back too far to a time when natural gas, all things considered, played a much smaller role in the nation’s electricity mix. At the turn of the century, it accounted for barely 15 percent of the nation’s electric power. (Coal accounted for about half, with nuclear kicking in 20 percent.)

Today, though, natural gas is ascendant, thanks to plentiful new supplies from America’s shale regions. It is expected to provide 34 percent of the country’s power this summer, more than any other source.

Using natural gas for power generation produces up to 60 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

According to EIA, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell 1.7 percent in 2016 compared to the year before. That follows a 2.7 percent drop from 2014 to 2015. All told, energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016 were 14 percent below the 2005 level.

Now that’s a trend.

Further to this, it’s worth digging through the government’s final Greenhouse Gas Inventory accounting for the years 1990-2015, just released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In particular, the data reveal that methane emissions from natural gas systems decreased by more than 16 percent from 1990 to 2015. That’s saying something considering domestic natural gas production has soared in recent years.

The great filmmaker Frank Capra said, “Don’t follow trends, start trends.” The oil and natural gas industry – in providing reliable, affordable energy while contributing significantly to reducing emissions – certainly seems to be taking that advice to heart.

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