U.S. Natural Gas – Meeting the Energy Poverty Challenge
Posted September 25, 2019
Energy is essential to a modern standard of living, and as the leading energy sources, natural gas and oil are foundational to almost everything we do – lighting our homes, heating our hospitals and powering our workplaces.
The U.S. is the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer, which is critically important given new projections that global energy consumption will increase nearly 50% by 2050. Though reliable access to energy often is taken for granted in this country, people in other parts of the world struggle to obtain the energy needed for sustainable development and to empower basic human progress.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nearly one in eight people around the world lives without electricity, and 2.7 billion people currently are without access to clean cooking facilities. Without power for heating, lighting and advanced technologies, human potential is severely limited. And in the absence of cleaner fuels, people must use coal, kerosene, biomass and other energy sources to prepare food, which contributes to harmful and unnecessary indoor air pollution.
The good news is that nearly 1.2 billion people have gained access to electricity since 2000, and electrification efforts have been outpacing population growth in sub-Saharan Africa since 2014, per IEA. Africa is looking more and more to renewable energy projects yet, as former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz points out in the Wall Street Journal, “if the continent’s standard of living is going to improve, it’ll take more than windmills and solar panels.” Moniz:
Africa’s energy future necessarily includes natural gas. … Environmentalists in Africa and elsewhere must recognize that developing countries need access to energy and that natural gas will play an important role. Compared with the energy sources that many African countries are relying on today and may increasingly turn to tomorrow as their populations expand, a combination of natural gas and renewables is necessary for a brighter, greener future.
The U.S. can help. With America’s growing capacity to share our energy with the rest of the world – largely via liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports – the U.S. is positioned to help connect regions and communities with energy in the future.
As U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry put it earlier this month:
“By any measure, natural gas has been the linchpin of our success here at home, and LNG can help open up new doors to possibility and prosperity around the world.”
Record-setting production makes U.S. LNG an affordable and competitive option in global markets. As the world’s third-largest exporter, America is shipping nearly 40 LNG cargoes per month to more than 35 countries – increasing supplies and, in turn, driving down natural gas prices across Europe and Asia.
Additionally, LNG cost-competitiveness signals opportunity for rapidly expanding economies, like China and India, where natural gas demand is projected to rise, replacing coal and biomass as a more affordable, cleaner-burning power source. Future demand growth is also expected in emerging markets, like Pakistan, Bangladesh and several African nations, that haven’t yet, or only recently began importing LNG.
For new importers, the specific drivers of natural gas demand growth may differ, but most often it’s a combination of the need to expand energy access while simultaneously reducing emissions. The Stanford Natural Gas Initiative, in its “Framework for Understanding the Role for Natural Gas in Reducing Energy Poverty,” explained:
“Using natural gas, expanding power generation is the biggest opportunity by megawatts to reduce energy poverty because it addresses two major concerns in the power sector that affect households and industry: air pollution from coal-fired generation and power shortages.”
The U.S. shale revolution is helping address the dual challenge of energy affordability and environmental progress, delivering cleaner-burning fuels to supply the world’s growing population – and subsequent growing demand – for energy. Exportable LNG, which can be used for power generation and industrial processes, is making it possible to strengthen economic outcomes, increase life expectancy and improve the quality of life for millions around the world.
API President and CEO Mike Sommers has explained:
“This industry has done more to help the human condition than any industry in the history of time. Every day the natural gas and oil industry works to provide safe, affordable, reliable and increasingly sustainable fuel for the American people, and thanks to increasing U.S. exports, we are helping others around the world.”
About The Author
Sam Winstel is a writer for the American Petroleum Institute. He comes to API from Edelman, where he supported communications marketing strategies for clients across the firm’s energy and federal government practices. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Sam graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, and he currently resides in Washington, D.C.