Fighting Climate Change With Natural Gas

The natural gas industry remains committed to a clean energy future and the goals of COP 27. We are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through smart innovation, new and modernized infrastructure, and advanced technologies that maintain reliable, resilient, and affordable energy service choices for consumers.

Karen Harbert spoke about the role of natural gas across the globe. “Natural gas is not only essential for the survival of Ukraine, it can do a lot to address the world’s carbon emissions. It can do a lot to bring people out of energy poverty. And here in the United States, we’re blessed to have so much natural gas today,” our CEO said. The final agreement at COP 27 recognized this reality by including natural gas as a low-emission energy source.

The contributions that natural gas has made, and continues to make, towards decreasing emissions can be critical to American and global efforts to build a sustainable future.

From 2000 to 2019, U.S. CO2 emissions per capita declined by more than 28 percent, even while GDP more than doubled from $10.25 trillion to $21.37 trillion. The leading cause of this decline is increased use of natural gas.

Between 2005 and 2019, 61 percent of power sector emissions reductions were driven by switching from coal to natural gas. Phasing out coal in favor of natural gas was possible with existing infrastructure, enabling a rapid move towards lower emissions energy.

As important as this is, some of the most impressive emissions reductions driven by natural gas occur in your home. Homes that use natural gas for space heating, water heating, cooking and clothes drying have carbon dioxide emissions about 22 percent lower than those attributable to an all-electric home. An Energy Star natural gas household could have a carbon footprint 19 percent lower than an Energy Star heat pump and 64 percent lower than an electric resistance furnace.

The natural gas sector has made impressive progress on lowering emissions. Emissions from the natural gas distribution system have declined 69 percent since 1990, with as little as 0.1 percent of the natural gas delivered nationwide emitted from local distribution systems. Since 1990, the miles of natural gas mains made of more modern materials have more than tripled as part of gas utilities’ efforts to enhance safety and has the added benefit of reducing emissions.

Gas utilities invest $4.3 million per day into energy efficiency programs that help to reduce emissions by ensuring that customers can buy increasingly more efficient natural gas appliances, upgrade insulation and install tighter-fitting windows and doors. These programs save customers money while also benefiting the climate. Thanks in large part to these investments, carbon emissions from the average natural gas home decline 1.2 percent per year.

Looking forward, the contributions the gas delivery system can make to decreasing emissions are equally impressive. Renewable natural gas (RNG) and green hydrogen have important roles to play in decreasing emissions. Green hydrogen has the potential to act as a powerful force multiplier, allowing long-term storage of energy generated by renewable sources and increasing the flexibility and resiliency of the energy system. Capturing RNG from feedstocks including agriculture, landfills, and sanitation plants could help to reduce emissions across multiple sectors of the economy while providing farmers and other businesses with additional revenue streams.

To learn more about how gas utilities are a critical component of decreasing emissions, read AGA’s study Net-Zero Emissions Opportunities for Gas Utilities.