Natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, is a highly efficient form of energy. It is composed chiefly of methane; the simple chemical composition of natural gas is a molecule of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms (CH4). When methane is burned completely, the principal products of combustion are carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Natural gasʼs advantages over other fuels include the following: it has fewer impurities, it is less chemically complex, and its combustion generally results in less pollution. In most applications, using natural gas produces less of the following substances than oil or coal: carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the primary greenhouse gas; sulfur dioxide, which is the primary precursor of acid rain; nitrogen oxides, which is the primary precursor of smog; and particulate matter, which can affect health and visibility; than oil or coal. Technological progress allows cleaner energy production than ever for all fuels, although the inherent cleanliness of gas means that environmental controls on gas equipment, if required, tend to be far less expensive than those for other fuels.
Comparison of Air Emissions from Fossil Fuels
(Pounds of air emissions produced per billion Btu of energy)
SOURCE: Energy Information Administration - www.eia.doe.gov
Natural gas also is helping America develop clean alternative energy sources in various ways, such as the following:
- Natural gas is used to make fertilizer for ethanol.
- Natural gas is used to make methane for hydrogen.
- Hydrogen is used to eliminate soot for cleaner diesel fuel.
- Electric utilities use natural gas to generate clean power.
- Natural gas is a raw material that goes into lightweight cars, wind power blades, solar panels and energy-efficient materials.
Using natural gas to replace less environmentally benign fuels can help address
simultaneously a number of environmental concerns, such as smog, acid rain and greenhouse gas emissions.
Natural gas is highly efficient. About 90 percent of the natural gas produced is delivered to customers as useful energy. In contrast, only about 30 percent of the energy converted to electricity in conventional generating facilities reaches consumers.
In order to pursue alternative energies, the United States must safely access Americaʼs natural gas supplies. It canʼt happen without natural gas.
Bruce McDowell, Director Policy Analysis,(202) 824-7131