The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Natural Gas: The Heart of Our Climate Progress

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted May 4, 2016

The progress the United States is making toward its climate goals starts with clean-burning natural gas.

Increased domestic natural gas production and its use is the primary reason the United States leads the world in reducing carbon emissions. It’s the keystone for a workable strategy to advance climate goals while sustaining economic growth and prosperity – the U.S. model. The U.S. Energy Department’s Christopher Smith, last week in Houston:

“A big part of the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that we’ve been able to manage in the United States is due to the fact … we’ve got trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that we are going to be able to produce safely, and our domestic supply has gone from one of scarcity to one that has enabled us to use more natural gas in baseload power consumption.”

U.S. climate progress looks like this:

emissions

The blue line shows declining energy-associated carbon emissions since 2007, compared to the orange line that shows where the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2006 forecast projected CO2 emissions would go. The area between the two lines shows our progress on reducing emissions, which is allowing the U.S. to lead the world’s top 20 economies in cutting carbon emissions from energy:

economies

Marty Durbin, API executive director for market development during a briefing with reporters earlier this year:

“If you actually want the outcome of reducing emissions across the board, doing it in a way that doesn’t harm the economy and does it in concert with other options like renewables … there’s a pretty good answer here.”

The answer is this: As other nations craft climate action plans and strategies, as they look to technologies and innovations to meet global emissions targets, the United States is showing the way – largely because of clean-burning natural gas produced by America’s game-changing energy revolution.

The U.S. experience is an historic decoupling of economic growth and carbon emissions increases, with abundant, affordable natural gas helping to lower Americans’ cost of living while also boosting key sectors of the economy, like manufacturing. This U.S. model can be world-changing – providing an energy path for under-developed regions and countries that lack energy and the infrastructure to deliver it. Chevron’s Ali Moshiri at this week’s Offshore Technology Conference:

“Amid this urgency for reliable and affordable energy, it’s imperative to build the infrastructure necessary to use natural gas in the developing world. Natural gas is an abundant, cleaner-burning fossil fuel that is economical to produce and commercialize; complementary to renewables, such as solar, wind or hydro power; and increasingly being used in transportation vehicles. More important for emerging economies, natural gas is an economic environmentally acceptable fuel for generating electricity.”

This is our energy reality and opportunity. Yet, some want to halt this progress and even roll it back. They oppose fossil fuel development and the domestic infrastructure needed to connect supply areas with consumers, businesses and power generators. Many do so in the name of climate – rejecting a proven energy-economic model as well as the clean-burning natural gas that is playing the biggest role in reducing U.S. carbon emissions.

This week saw climate activists demanding an end to all pipeline projects in Massachusetts, and last month New York officials rejected the proposed Constitution natural gas pipeline. This, in a part of the country where individual families and businesses have paid more than other parts of the country for electricity in winter months because of inadequate natural gas pipeline capacity. Steve Dodge, Massachusetts Petroleum Council executive director, in a Boston Globe letter to the editor:

Clean-burning natural gas is a leading factor in cutting US carbon emissions to 20-year lows. … Natural gas and renewables are often presented as competing energy sources. Calling for one over the other is a false choice. Natural gas provides reliable power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. … Hydropower, solar, and offshore and onshore wind all have roles to play. To continue emissions progress, as well as to reduce consumer costs and keep manufacturing competitive, natural gas must be part of the policy conversation.

Thanks to vast shale energy reserves and safe, modern hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the United States has become the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas. We’ve lowered our imports, increased our energy security and helped our economy – all while reducing emissions. Opposition to these domestic energy-based successes makes little sense.

Durbin says elected officials at all levels, starting at the White House, should publicly support safe and well-regulated infrastructure development so that all parts of the country can be supplied safely and efficiently. Durbin:

“[T]hose who would like to see fossil fuels ended today are now taking (on) every pipeline project. … Their statement is there’s no such thing as safe natural gas production. Frankly, the federal process has not been the issue. … The problem is all on the ground. … I do believe the administration, if they want to achieve the goals they’ve laid out – economic, emissions reductions, climate legacy, call it what you want – they need to be able to stand up and more forcefully say yes we have to do it safely, yes this pipeline has to be built responsibly, but we have to do it. And it is safe and manageable. … Manageable doesn’t mean managed, but nonetheless, it’s incumbent on all of us, elected officials at all levels, tell your constituents we’ve got to do it right but we have to do it.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.