Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce GHG Emissions

A comprehensive analysis by C2ES concludes that increased natural gas use can help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the near to medium term, but deeper long-term reductions will require broader deployment of other low-carbon energy sources as well.

"Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions" examines the climate challenges and opportunities posed by the current natural gas boom. The report synthesizes information from a series of background papers and workshops in Houston and Boston attended by several dozen experts and representatives of industry, environmental organizations, and state agencies

Among the report’s key findings:

  • U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are back down to mid-1990s levels, in part because electricity generators are using more natural gas, which emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal. Further reductions can be achieved by substituting natural gas for coal and oil in the transportation, manufacturing and building sectors.
  • Simply substituting natural gas will not achieve the deeper emissions cuts needed in the longer term.  Zero-carbon energy sources such as solar, wind and nuclear are critical.  Strong support also is needed to perfect and deploy technologies to capture carbon emissions from coal- and natural gas-fired power plants and bury them underground.

The potential climate benefits of increased natural gas use can be maximized only if further steps are taken throughout the natural gas system to reduce leaks of methane, the principal component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.

Read the report summary.

Read the full report.

 

Following is a summary of opportunities and challenges identified in the report, and key next steps:

Opportunities

  •     Increased direct use of natural gas in homes and businesses by replacing certain electric appliances, such as space and water heaters, with natural gas models.
  •     Reduced reliance on petroleum and reduced emissions by substituting natural gas for diesel and gasoline in fleets and heavy-duty trucks.
  •     Manufacturing growth with reduced emissions by using natural gas in more efficient combined heat and power systems.
  •     Expanded use of natural gas-powered fuel cells and microturbines producing efficient, on-site energy that makes use of waste heat.

Challenges

  •     Funding expensive infrastructure to deliver natural gas to more homes and businesses.
  •     Ensuring that natural gas complements -- not crowds out -- zero-carbon energy such as nuclear, wind, and solar.
  •     Overcoming regulatory hurdles and a lack of incentives for on-site (distributed) power generation.
  •     Identifying and addressing methane leaks from the production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas.

Next steps

  •     Educating consumers about the full-fuel-cycle efficiency of natural gas appliances.
  •     Encouraging innovative funding models and incentives to extend natural gas lines to consumers and promote on-site power generation.
  •     Informing manufacturers about the increased efficiency and resilience of combined heat and power systems.
  •     Aligning state policies to overcome perceived conflicts between utilities and combined heat and power operations, encourage development of distributed generation technologies such as microturbines, and address the high cost of expanding natural gas infrastructure.

Additional Resources:

 

Video of our launch event

Remarks by Eileen Claussen and Michael Webber

CEO-Level Discission on the greenhouse gas reduction benefits of natural gas