Energy. Environment. Economy.

Carbon emissions from natural gas expected to surpass coal

A natural gas power plant under construction in Bradford County.

Marie Cusick / StateImpact PA

A natural gas power plant under construction in Bradford County.

Carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas are expected to exceed those from coal for the first time in more than 40 years, according to data released Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The EIA projects energy-related carbon emissions from natural gas will be 10 percent higher than those from coal this year.

Although natural gas is much less carbon-intensive than coal, Americans are using a lot more of it. While coal has historically supplied much of the country’s electric power, the fracking boom has led to a sharp increase in natural gas-fired power plants. Coal’s share of the electric power generation has been shrinking, while gas has been growing.

At the same time, annual carbon intensity rates in the U.S. have largely been decreasing over the past decade, says the EIA. One of the reasons is the growing consumption carbon free sources, such as nuclear-powered electricity and renewable energy.

“As these fuels make up a larger share of U.S. energy consumption, the U.S. average carbon intensity declines,” says the EIA.


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