There is a clear message in the predominance of natural gas. Electric utilities note that energy generated from natural gas is inexpensive, reliable and clean. By the way, natural gas supplies are almost unlimited.
And there is an added dividend: Due to the shift mainly from coal to natural gas, carbon emissions from electricity production in the United States have dropped dramatically and are now at mid-1980’s levels.
Consider that over the past ten years, natural gas has emerged as a pillar of U.S. economic strength. Jobs are created, and manufacturing is flourishing, thanks in large part to lower energy costs. The shale fuel revolution has made natural gas so cheap that it is displacing coal as a fuel for producing electricity.
An abundance of inexpensive American gas is transforming global energy markets, providing critical geopolitical gains from the export of liquefied natural fuel. In the battle to weaken Russia’s economic grip on Europe, we’ve turned to the commercial world’s most basic weapons — competition. Rising the export of LNG has given Europe an alternative source of natural gas.
What brings home the new actuality is a milestone reached last year, when America eclipsed Russia as the world’s top producer of natural gas. This adds as much as a very different outlook than the one 15 years ago when the U.S. was heavily dependent on imported natural gas.
And because gas plants can ramp up quickly, they can compensate for lack of wind and solar energy on days when production from renewables can’t meet demand. Since 2005, gas cut 50 % more emissions than wind and solar combined.
Whether the United States will continue to take advantage of the opportunities introduced by increased pure gas will depend in large part on reducing bottlenecks in the pipeline system. The worst is in New England, where a lack of pipeline capacity has meant that, instead of being able to entry gas from the close by Marcellus shale, New England utilities had no choice but to pay inflated prices for Russian LNG that was produced halfway around the world.
Just how critical is natural gas? Combined-cycle natural gas plants not only are America’s leading source of electricity but have become the nation’s engine of economic growth, strengthening jobs creation and industrial expansion. The ramp-up in electricity production from gasoline has reduced air pollution and carbon emissions.
The great news is that the switch from coal to natural gas has led to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.
Ironically, the environmental gains from natural gas, as soon as regarded as a bridge to renewables, maybe just the factor that enables solar and wind to retain a place in the energy economy of the decades to come.