Naturally occurring gases—such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone—help to make Earth habitable for humans. But the same gases, when man-made, can add to the naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere and act much like the glass walls and roof of a greenhouse, trapping heat from the sun. This “greenhouse” effect could prevent heat from escaping from the earth, thus raising the average temperature of the atmosphere surrounding the earth and raising sea levels.
Although there is still debate about the extent of this global climate change, the primary cause is thought to be emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). While it is not the most potent of the greenhouse gases, CO2 has a relatively long atmospheric lifetime. CO2 emissions represent about 85 percent of total United States greenhouse gas emissions when weighted on their global warming potential, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Using natural gas in place of other fuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When burned, natural gas emits 45 percent less CO2 than coal and 30 percent less CO2 than oil on an energy-equivalent basis. The increased use of clean natural gas has helped reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions relative to the United States’ gross domestic product, according to EIA. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have recommended that energy users switch to natural gas to help mitigate global climate change.
In 2006, AGA established a board-level AGA Climate Change Task Force to further examine the association’s position on climate change. In 2007, AGA formally adopted a set of principles that outline the role of natural gas in addressing climate change. These principles—summarized below—clarify that clean-burning natural gas can play a significant role in mitigating global climate change, while at the same time enhancing America’s energy security and growing economy.
Reasonable and responsible federal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is warranted and natural gas should play a role in this reduction. However, given the supply constraints on natural gas, it should only be viewed as part of the solution to the climate change issue. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be made in concert with other energy and environmental goals, including the increase of natural gas supplies and minimizing price impact on natural gas consumers. Also, other energy forms and technologies must be pursued, particularly with respect to efficient low-carbon electricity generation options.
AGA believes that efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—that is, emissions from the entire energy chain from production through consumption—should focus on promoting energy efficiency and reducing full-cycle emissions.
Finally, AGA’s position is that any efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should focus on all sectors of the economy that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions; however, the most effective program may not be the same in each sector. For example, we believe that greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial natural gas customers could more efficiently and effectively be reduced by the aggressive adoption of conservation/efficiency programs, tighter building codes and standards, and higher-efficiency appliance standards than through the inclusion of these customers in a “cap and trade” program.
AGA Contact: Bruce McDowell, Director Policy Analysis,(202) 824-7131