U.S. carbon emissions today are at 27-year lows. Thanks to natural gas, 61% of those total CO2 emission savings are due to switching away from coal-fired electric power plants over the last 15 years.
At the same time, carbon-free renewable energy resources are growing at a record pace – an exciting development as it surpasses coal in U.S. electricity production (19%) for the first time in 2020, a pivotal step forward in reducing carbon emissions.
Natural gas serves as a flexible, real-time foundational energy source when solar and wind are unavailable to meet our 24/7 energy needs. That’s why it’s so important to keep natural gas as part of our energy equation.
While President Joe Biden and policymakers draft net-zero emission goals by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change, Columbia University and Princeton University researchers analyzed various pathways to get us there.
Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy stated “while it may seem counterintuitive, investing more in the domestic natural gas pipeline network could help the US reach net-zero emission goals more quickly and cheaply.” The report highlighted the role of the 2.5 million-mile existing pipeline infrastructure that will rely on green hydrogen or biogas in the future to reduce the carbon content of our existing natural gas system.
An exhaustive 2020 Princeton University study found that natural gas would continue to play a role in a reliable energy grid. While eliminating all fossil fuels and zero-carbon emissions is technically feasible, in reality, the implementation faces significant challenges to achieve within a decade, including but not limited to:
A December 2020 study by General Electric found the strategic deployment “of renewables and gas power can change the trajectory for climate change, enabling substantiative reductions in emissions quickly…”
Because renewable sources like wind and solar only work part-of-the-time, other energy sources are needed to fill the gaps and avoid blackouts. The same study found carbon emissions are cut up to 40% more when renewables and natural gas work together, rather than renewables working on its own – which still requires higher-emitting power to fill the gaps.
A 2020 Progressive Policy Institute report found natural gas will help to manage the risk of a rapid expansion of renewables with regard to price and reliability – keeping the lights on by dispatching within minutes when renewables can’t keep up with customer demand.