Posted April 10, 2017
New analysis from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions fell 1.7 percent in 2016 and are down nearly 14 percent since 2005. CO2 emissions from electricity generation fell by 4.9 percent last year. EIA’s charts, first for declining CO2 emissions across all consumption sectors:
And then emissions by sector:
The significance is that power generation was the largest CO2-emitting sector until last year. No longer, and the increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas is the primary reason. On that point, EIA says more than 60 percent of the decrease in power generation-related CO2 emissions since 2005 was due to fuel switching to natural gas:
Because more natural gas is being used, the historic link between rising CO2 emissions and increased energy production/use and economic growth has been broken. This is important, market-driven progress on climate, which API and its member companies consider an important issue for constructive engagement – engagement that also is seen in approximately $90 billion in oil and natural gas industry investments in zero- and low-emissions technologies since 2000, nearly as much as the federal government and more than twice that of the next largest industry sector.
The argument here is for policies that support a market approach to emissions reductions – as opposed to a Washington/top-down approach. The market approach is driving the progress seen in recent years. The point is underscored in an analysis last fall by Mid-Atlantic electric grid manager PJM Interconnection on the role of natural gas in reducing power sector CO2 emissions:
“A lower natural gas price forecast…has a greater effect on emissions levels, the retirement of fossil steam resources and new entry of natural gas combined cycle resources than even the most stringent of the studied compliance pathways. … Because of accelerated retirements, there would be no cost to achieve compliance, and the resulting emissions would be below the final Clean Power Plan targets, even without the Clean Power Plan.”
“What we know from recent performance is that we no longer have to choose between more energy and a cleaner environment.”
There are global implications, as well. A U.S. Energy Department study found that liquefied natural gas from the U.S., used for power generation in Asia and Europe, will emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions from a lifecycle perspective than electricity generated by regional coal.
U.S. natural gas has been a plentiful, affordable and reliable source of energy. Coupled with the environmental advantages of natural gas, our country’s policies should work to ensure its safe, responsible and growing production.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joins API after spending 16 years as national editorial writer in the Washington Bureau of The Oklahoman newspaper. In all, he has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, including six years as sports editor at The Washington Times. He lives in Occoquan, Virginia, with his wife Pamela. Mark graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism and earned a masters in journalism and public affairs at American University. He's currently working on a masters in history at George Mason University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor in the Communication Department.