U.S. Carbon Emissions Declining to Twenty Year Low, Thanks to Shale Gas

A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF ) short-term energy forecast finds that electricity-related carbon emissions are dropping to their lowest levels since 1994.  That’s due in large part to the fact that power plants are likely to burn natural gas at a record rate in 2015.

In fact, on an emissions rate basis, “2015 will be the cleanest year in over 60 years for which we have historical data,” according to the recently released report. The report also states that power generation emissions will fall 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2015.

The bottom line is that as power plants continue to use more and more natural gas, carbon emissions will continue to fall. That fact prompted William Nelson, head of North American analysis at BNEF, to make the following assessment in the report:

“In 2015, we’ll take a giant, permanent step toward decarbonizing our entire fleet of power plants.”

The report acknowledges that renewables such as wind and solar will contribute to the latter trend. But it indicates natural gas will remain economically ideal long term thanks to an abundant supply and expected continued low prices. A 14 gigawatt natural gas build is forecast in 2015 and that upward trend is expected to continue.

The economic benefits of shale gas – whether through lower energy bills or our manufacturing renaissance — are undeniable. But the environmental benefits are just as obvious, and regulators and scientists have taken notice.

  • EPA administrator Gina McCarthy: “Responsible development of natural gas is an important part of our work to curb climate change.”
  • Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz: “About half of that progress we have made [on greenhouse gas emissions] is from the natural-gas boom.”
  • University of California-Berkeley physics professor Richard Muller: “Environmentalists who oppose the development of shale gas and fracking are making a tragic mistake.”

No other country has made such progress on emissions – and shale development is a big reason we are ahead of the curve.


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