There’s a natural gas boom going on in America.
Many have credited it with helping to curb CO2 emissions.
Now, according to a new study from CO2 Scorecard, a web group that monitors climate friendly economic growth, we have an estimate of just how much it helped.
The first thing to know is that there was a huge drop in CO2 emissions in 2012. Check it out — just a single month saw gains:
The group looked at the extent of coal plants shutting down on their own, versus instances in which utilities switched to natgas from coal.
They found that 160 million MWh of coal power was substituted by natural gas, but an additional 51 million MWh of coal power was phased out thanks to, ” energy efficiency, conservation, and the mild January, February and March of 2012.”
In some regions, declines in coal use actually exceeded increases in natgas.
Meanwhile, natgas actually increased CO2 emissions when it replaced hydro, nuclear and renewables (which of course release zero emissions), cancelling gains from coal to the tune of 25%-30% (or 24 million tons).
Finally, 87 million tons worth of the decline can be chalked up to gains in transportation and industry:
The transportation sector cut 39 million tons (19%) as a result of two phenomena—people are driving less, and when they drive they tend to drive fuel efficient cars. The residential and commercial sectors shaved off an additional 48 million tons, reflecting the effects of energy efficiency, conservation and the mild winter of 2012.
In sum, we get this chart crediting natural gas with 26% of the total reductions in 2012 — just behind the overall decline in coal for the aforementioned reasons at 27%.
In an interview, author Shakeb Asfah said the study did not look at whether gains from natural gas may have been offset by fugitive methane emissions from gas wells, pipelines and compressor stations. The extent of methane releases from natgas infrastructure remains highly controversial and Asfah says an upcoming study will attempt to reckon the range of data on that phenomenon.
In any event, he said, the government must be doing more to put a price on carbon.
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