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Increased U.S. Natural Gas Production Driving Emissions Reduction

The United States recorded a 1.9% drop in C02 emissions in 2023, thanks in large part to substituting natural gas for more emissions-intensive coal. According to nonpartisan research provider  Rhodium Group, emissions from power generation fell 8% while those for residential and commercial buildings dropped 4%; however, the transport sector saw emissions increase 1.6% due to a rebound in air travel and increased driving. The drop is even more impressive considering that it came in a year when the economy was expanding, a trend that is normally associated with higher emissions.

Richard Meyer, VP, Energy Markets, Analysis and Standards at the American Gas Association(AGA) has made the connection in no uncertain terms:

To be clear about why 2023 emissions dropped as much as it did: Setting aside some weather-related effects, the single largest driver was coal to natural gas switching.’

Last year, natural gas accounted for 118.9 TWh of power generation in the U.S., managing to nearly completely offset the 121.9 TWh reduction in coal generation. Natural gas emits only half the volume of CO2 for a similar unit of power generated compared to coal. 

Another benefit of gas: For every 100 MMBtu of natural gas extracted, 92 MMBtu is delivered to the end-user, nearly three times higher than the 38 MMBtu delivered to the customer when energy is converted to electricity. For years, many climate experts have viewed natural gas as an important bridge as the world transitions from coal and other fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar.

Rhodium Group has, however, pointed out that the country needs to cut emissions much more deeply to meet its climate targets.

A decline in economy-wide emissions is a step in the right direction, but that rate of declines needs to more than triple and sustain at that level every year from 2024 through 2030 in order to meet the U.S.’s climate target under the Paris Agreement of a 50-52% reduction in emissions,” the study’s authors said in a statement.

By Alex Kimani for Oilprice.com

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