Natural Gas is Integral to Climate Solutions in 2020 and Beyond
John D. Siciliano
Posted December 18, 2019
At the recent U.N. climate talks in Madrid, former Secretary of State John Kerry kicked off a new bipartisan climate campaign that includes natural gas as part of the answer in an interesting marriage between political campaign and real-world energy solutions.
The campaign, referred to as World War Zero, will fan out to key battleground states next year to educate voters on climate change policies in the run-up to the November presidential election.
Kerry, a longtime senator and America’s top diplomat under the Obama administration, told the New York Times ahead of the Madrid talks that the campaign wouldn’t endorse one policy over another, and that members are free to support any number of climate solutions, including natural gas. Kerry:
“We’re not going to be divided going down a rabbit hole for one plan or another.”
Underscoring that point directly, is former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who joined Kerry’s campaign, and will be making the case for fracking and natural gas when on the road next year. In a New York Times interview ahead of the COP 25 talks, Kasich pointed out that natural gas had to be part of the climate discussion or he wouldn’t have joined:
“If I’ve got to sign up to be an anti-fracker, count me out.”
Kasich, whose state is a large natural gas producer, also said increasing renewable energy research and deployment would need to be part of a climate solution.
Online business publication the Motley Fool was one of the first to play up the fact that natural gas would be part of Kerry’s campaign. Contributor Maxx Chatsko writes:
“If the goal is to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, then it makes little sense to deride the advantages of natural gas. It's simple: Every metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions avoided in 2020 counts for 30 metric tons of total CO2 emissions avoided in the three decades between now and 2050, the planet's agreed-upon due date for climate action. We should bank those savings however we can get them.”
In the United States, the switch from coal to natural gas has been dramatic. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects natural gas-fueled power generation will produce nearly 40% of the nation’s electricity in 2020 while coal will continue declining to 22%.
Coal had once dominated, accounting for nearly 50% of the electricity market a decade ago. But the affordability of natural gas produced using fracking and the resulting natural gas and oil revolution has brought fundamental change and climate benefits, because natural gas produces about 50% fewer CO2 emissions than coal. It’s now cheaper and cleaner than ever to produce electricity.
The fact is, natural gas will continue to grow alongside renewables like solar and wind – which must have natural gas as a partner for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow – while bringing down total energy-related carbon emissions.
EIA’s last energy outlook for the year forecasts CO2 emissions falling both in 2019 and 2020. That’s after rising by 2.9% in 2018. What EIA shows:
U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will decline by 1.4 % when all is said and done in 2019. That trend continues in 2020, with emissions falling by 2.2% by the end next year.
The reduction in emissions has to do with the increased share of electricity generated from natural gas and renewables, while coal’s share of the market continues decreasing, according to EIA.
It’s clear that natural gas will continue to be part of the solution in meeting climate goals and lowering emissions. Political leaders are right to support natural gas, along with renewables and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) technologies, as part of the solution.
The National Petroleum Council (NPC), a federal advisory group, issued two reports amid the climate talks, underscoring the need for increased collaboration between the private and public sectors to advance CCUS as well as the need for natural gas and oil infrastructure to deliver energy to under-served parts of the country, both of which API supports.
Our industry believes the NPC reports shine a light on how the U.S. can provide affordable energy while also addressing the risks of climate change.
CCUS technologies would help make meeting those dual challenges possible by removing the CO2 from a power plant or industrial facilities’ exhaust stream, and storing it or using it for even more clean energy production or for some other use.
That’s why API backs bipartisan legislation that supports CCUS research and deployment. Bipartisan proposals like The USE IT Act – introduced in the U.S. Senate by Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and The LEADING Act, introduced by Texas Republican John Cornyn and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons – are important to commercialize this important technology.
The scale of addressing global climate challenges requires overcoming partisan divides of the past and putting real bipartisan solutions on the table. API – like the majority of Americans – will continue to support and advocate for affordable solutions that meet growing demand for cleaner energy while reducing emissions.
About The Author
John Siciliano is a writer for API Global Industry Services’ Marketing and Communications Department. He joined API after 14 years as an energy and environment reporter and editor. Most recently, he was senior energy and environment writer for the Washington Examiner and the Daily on Energy newsletter. He began full-time reporting in Washington in 2001 as a foreign affairs correspondent, also covering national security and defense. His coverage of the Mideast and Saudi Arabia led him to become a full-time energy reporter. He earned a bachelors degree in psychology from Ohio Northern University, and he also holds a Masters of Science degree in education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
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