August 9, 2023

Opinion: The quickest route to reducing carbon emissions is American natural gas

We must help accelerate our clean energy future with current resources that are abundant and we must do it now.

By Tim Ryan, Natural Allies Leadership Council Co-Chair | Washington Post, 8/9/23

Beyond North America, much of the world is still burning coal to make electricity and supply industry. Even in the midst of global agreements addressing climate change, China is continuing to permit and build coal plants, while countries like India are increasing coal imports to meet growing demand.

Ramping up renewable power like wind, solar and hydro is critical to making progress toward emissions reduction. But we need to be mindful that these transitions can’t happen quickly and current technologies cannot meet all of today’s energy needs. We must help accelerate our clean energy future with current resources that are abundant and we must do it now.

American natural gas is a climate solution we can deploy immediately. Natural gas is a proven and rapid carbon-reduction strategy.1 A 2021 report found that simply switching the world’s top 5 percent of worst polluting coal and oil plants to natural gas could cut global carbon emissions by 30 percent.2 What are we waiting for?

According to a recent report from Energy Futures Initiative, secure energy supply and climate goals must be addressed in the same conversation, and natural gas will be crucial for global decarbonization.3

American natural gas is already reducing emissions

As the United States has become the world’s largest natural gas exporter, American energy companies are doing even more to make American natural gas the cleanest in the world.

The industry recognizes that abating methane emissions is critical to addressing the climate crisis.

Natural gas industry leaders are collaborating with organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP 2.0) to report emissions and mitigate them. Industry leaders recognize that to be a part of the climate solution, they must help to drive down carbon emissions while also curtailing their own methane releases. Doing so can make rapid headway on achieving climate goals, given methane’s contribution as a potent short-term greenhouse gas.

Natural Allies is a coalition of interested stakeholders that recognize the vital role natural gas and its infrastructure must play in the energy mix. Our member companies are actively undertaking important activities to aggressively address climate change, including:

The One Future campaign, an industry collective representing over 40 percent of the American natural gas value chain, has already voluntarily beat methane reduction targets years ahead of schedule. This shows the industry can be trusted to meet these challenges. With the White House recently convening a task force on methane, it provides an opportunity to demonstrate all the industry is doing to reduce emissions, and ability to work with the Administration to meet our shared climate goals and be part of the solution.

Impact of American natural gas globally

Addressing emission releases in foreign countries is a different story. Some countries, like Russia, have no incentives to track, report or address their climate-damaging methane emissions. In turn it creates a product that is cheap in cost, but, according to one estimate, could create up to 40 percent more emissions than American natural gas.10

The European Union (EU) is now taking action to ensure everyone within and beyond its borders is playing by the same rules with its Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. The goal is to put a fair price on the carbon emitted during the production of carbon intensive products imported into the EU to avoid undercutting the efforts of those working hard to decarbonize.

American natural gas is ready to compete not just via exports to Europe on traditional energy supply, but also to position American goods made with clean natural gas to be more competitive in the EU marketplace.

This effort includes the American steel industry’s race to develop “clean steel,” which reduces the carbon emitted during the product lifecycle. Companies like Cleveland-Cliffs are using direct reduction with natural gas, rather than coal, to improve on products that are already among the cleanest in the world. As global manufacturers seek to decarbonize their supply chains, America’s steel industry stands ready thanks to natural gas.

Building a clean future with American natural gas

Additionally, the existing natural gas infrastructure across the United States provides ample opportunity to adapt zero-carbon fuels of the future such as hydrogen. Other advances in technology, such as Modern Hydrogen, remove carbon from natural gas and generate clean hydrogen on site to decarbonize large industrial plants. New carbon capture pilot programs are also demonstrating practical ways to cut emissions quickly without sacrificing affordability or reliability.11,12,13

The challenge America’s natural gas industry faces to move more of the world’s cleanest energy isn’t technological or geological, it’s political. The abundant resources are available, the processes are in place and independent third parties are holding companies accountable.

Now, we need the ability to quickly ramp up infrastructure to move the gas where it’s needed at home and abroad. That will provide a secure energy supply necessary to decarbonize the world’s dirtiest sectors with the cleanest natural gas on the planet. America’s natural gas companies are leading the way, but we need strong public and political support to get LNG and pipeline infrastructure permitted and built to accelerate our carbon reduction imperative. Our future depends on it.