It’s well established that domestic energy production is good for the economy. Lesser know is that its good for the environment too! Recently, the Energy Information Administration released a report that found carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation just reached a 27-year-low in the U.S. This means that the nation’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide (electricity generation) is getting more efficient and more environmentally friendly.
Here are four reasons why:
- Abundance and Price
The biggest reason for the decrease in emissions is the increased use of natural gas. In recent years natural gas used to generate electricity has more than tripled. Advancements in energy production technology such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have increased the supply of natural gas which has resulted in historic low prices, incentivizing energy producers to switch from coal to natural gas. Additionally, federal and state regulation have increased the cost of compliance for electricity generation that utilizes coal, further reducing the use of the fuel.
- Carbon Intensity
Natural gas emits almost 80 percent less carbon dioxide when it’s burned than other sources of fuel.
- Power Plant Efficiency
Power plants that run on natural gas are around 25-30 percent more efficient. For every unit of natural gas burned, power plants produce around a quarter more electricity. In April 2015, EIA reported that electric generation was up 44% from April 1998. However, the resources consumed to produce that electricity only increased by 33%.
- Other Energy Sources
In addition to the increased use of natural gas for generating our electricity, our non-hydrocarbon generation is on the rise. In the first few months of 2014 alone, nuclear power plants produced 3 percent more electricity that the previous year. Similarly, electricity generated from renewable sources like solar, wind and hydroelectric increased by 2 percent.
For energy consumers, this means more affordable electricity rates, and lower home heating and cooling costs. This not only saves families money, but lowers costs for small businesses and helps grow our economy.
However, we must ensure that new regulations like the EPA Clean Power Plan don’t start to erode our progress and unnecessarily drive up energy costs. Rather than federal mandates, state officials are uniquely positioned to regulate natural gas development and electricity generation because they are often familiar with local geographies and possess the requisite expertise on the issue.
A successful “state-first” approach to monitoring emissions can be seen in Colorado where the Governor, the Environmental Defense Fund, and three leading energy companies recently passed the nation’s first oil and gas regulations to control methane emissions. These regulations provide more meaningful and effective rules than any set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ultimately, advancements in natural gas production have created an energy renaissance that has led to environmental and economic gains for the U.S. Consequently, emissions are at a record low. Provided that state officials monitor the industry’s emissions, the U.S. can continue down this prosperous path.