For some activist groups, natural gas has become the latest in a long line of villains blamed for impeding efforts to reduce emissions. The tragic part is, they’ve got it completely backwards and their efforts would only roll back our nation’s amazing environmental progress.
Those opposing clean-burning natural gas are actually hurting their own push for cleaner air.
The misinformed position regarding natural gas recently gathered steam with the release of a report that selectively cobbled together data in an attempt to blame natural gas for “increased” U.S. emissions. The report itself is a confusing jumble of global greenhouse gas emissions information, with statistics from 2018.
Instead of focusing on the fact that U.S. emissions are in fact declining (a clear and glaring omission), the report seeks to attack and demonize natural gas.
America has a great environmental story to tell, and rather than cast aspersions on one of the main reasons for that success, the nation – and those groups who have championed environmental stewardship – should be taking a victory lap.
Let’s consider the reality here, with some context provided by a credible, unassailable report from the International Energy Agency (IEA):
- In 2019, the U.S. recorded the largest decline in carbon dioxide emissions of any advanced economy, with an amazing 2.9% reduction. This is equivalent to removing 140 million tons of emissions, and it includes a 1.7% drop in emissions from fossil fuels.
- Further, from 2005 through 2017, our overall greenhouse gas emissions have fallen an impressive 12 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Far more than any major world economy.
Even with the U.S. producing more natural gas than ever to meet our growing demand, our nation is leading the world in emission reductions. Yes, leading the world!
Meanwhile, other large emitting nations like China, Russia and India are seeing their greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase significantly. China, the world’s largest emitter and, curiously, a favored target of praise by many anti-energy groups, is expected to see its emissions surge between 14 and 25 percent by 2030.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) – the research arm of the U.S. Department of Energy - added even better news with new environmental projections, when it projected year-over-year declines in energy-related greenhouse emissions through 2021, with a 2% decrease in 2020 and an additional 1.5% decline in 2021.
If those forecasts hold true, carbon emissions in the U.S. will fall to their lowest level since 1988.
All this is happening during a period of record oil and natural gas production in the United States and record natural gas consumption.
What does that tell us? Quite a few things, starting with the fact that the United States produces oil and gas in the most environmentally responsible way, while ensuring that families, business and farmers all have the reliable and affordable energy they need.
Natural gas is an essential ingredient to this union of environmental stewardship and economic security because new technologies are making gas-fired electric generation cleaner, safer and more reliable. As our nation continues its transition to more renewable energy, the reliability of natural gas provides certainty to households in times of erratic renewable power generating patterns.
Over the last two decades, the IEA estimates, U.S. emissions have declined nearly one gigaton, or 1 billion metric tons. Between 2015 and 2018 alone, U.S. emissions fell more than 5%.
It’s simply a fact that natural gas burns more cleanly and generates less greenhouse gases than other traditional fuels.
Indeed, the EIA also concluded in a December report that natural gas outpaced renewable energy options in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The report indicated that gas is emerging as the cleanest, lowest-impact traditional fuel source for generating power. Since 2005, the EIA estimates, the switch to more gas power plants reduced carbon emissions by over 2.8 million metric tons.
So let’s please stop manufacturing bogeymen when it comes to our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With the U.S. also leading the world in energy innovation and technology, we should start focusing on how we can export our environmental progress to other nations. The only real way that the globe will meet environmental targets is through U.S. technological leadership.
Our country is leading the way toward a low-carbon future with both natural gas and renewable deployment, all while keeping our energy prices low and our supplies of electricity reliable.
America will have reduced almost twice as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than any other nation and by 2025, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies, and our nation will be more than two-thirds of the way to meeting Paris our Climate Accord objectives.
That’s real American progress, proving we can be strong stewards of our environment while producing the energy our families, business and entire economy need.
Let’s step back from the debate table, take a short victory lap for our environmental and energy progress and then get back to work making more progress. We have made great progress, while ensuring affordable and plentiful energy for all Americans. This is a story that deserves attention.
David Holt is president of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA).
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