The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Natural Gas – America’s Leader in Emissions Savings

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 23, 2014

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s new report on U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions details the major role in reducing CO2 emissions that’s being played by increased use of clean-burning, affordable natural gas.

While U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions ticked up slightly last year (2.5 percent), mainly because colder weather led to greater heating demand over 2012, EIA says 2013 emissions still were 10 percent lower than they were in 2005. Wider use of natural gas in electricity generation is a key reason. EIA:

The power sector has become less carbon intensive for two reasons: the substitution of less-carbon-intensive natural gas-fired generation, displacing coal and petroleum generation, and the growth in noncarbon generation, especially from renewables such as wind and solar. The substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels (mostly coal) has largely been market driven, as ample supplies of attractively priced natural gas and the relative ease of adding natural gas-fired capacity have often made it the fuel of choice for electric power generation.

EIA charts emissions reductions in power generation from increased use of natural gas and growth in renewable energy, the blue bars representing natural gas and the brown ones representing renewables:



The overall decline in carbon intensity of electricity generation, through both reduced fossil fuel carbon intensity and increased noncarbon generation, has reduced cumulative CO2 emissions from power generation by about 1.6 billion metric tons since 2005.

Of the 1.6 billion metric tons in CO2 emissions saved in power generation since 2005, 1 billion metric tons are assigned to natural gas use and 604 million metric tons are credited to renewables.  Doing the math: natural gas was responsible 62.39 percent of those CO2 savings, renewables 37.6 percent.

Now an all-of-the-above energy observation: CO2 emissions savings the past eight years are a great story. While the world talks about reducing emissions, the United States is achieving it (even when factoring in a year like 2013 where special circumstances resulted in a small rise).

That progress on emissions came largely comes from an inclusive energy approach in power generation, one in which it’s clear that greater natural gas use is playing a leading role. It’s progress that opponents of natural gas and hydraulic fracturing would discard – ironically, in the name of reducing emissions.

The CO2 report, coupled with reductions in methane emissions from fracked natural gas wells73 percent the past three years – is to a great extent attributable to continuing industry efforts to reduce emissions in its operations, part of a broader industry commitment to protecting the environment. Again, a good story we’re glad to tell.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.