Natural Gas Drove US Emissions Reductions in 2023
In 2023, the United States saw a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions, largely driven by increased use of natural gas. Natural gas is propelling immediate emissions reductions today, with the natural gas delivery system poised to make even greater contributions with innovative low carbon fuels and greater efficiency in the future.
AGA’s own Richard Meyer, VP, Energy Markets, Analysis and Standards, makes the connection in no uncertain terms. “To be clear about why 2023 emissions dropped as much as it did: Setting aside some weather-related effects, the single largest driver was coal to natural gas switching.” See his chart below.
The chart reveals a steep decline in coal usage for power generation, reaching record lows. Natural gas filled almost all of this gap – accounting for 118.9 Terawatthours out of the 121.9 Terawatthours reduction in coal generation. Since natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal when used for power, this switch significantly lowered emissions. (It is worth noting that the direct use of natural gas in the home is even more efficient. For every 100 MMBtu of natural gas extracted, 92 MMBtu are delivered to the customer, in contrast to 38 MMBtu when energy is converted to electricity.)
Significantly, this drop in emissions (1.9% to be exact) came at the same time as growth in American GDP (2.6%). For decades, the holy grail of sustainable development was the decoupling of economic growth and emissions growth. Thanks to natural gas, the U.S. has managed to grow the economy while reducing emissions.
U.S. energy resources and infrastructure have boosted its economic competitiveness. As a result, U.S. natural gas prices are about a third of European LNG prices. In significant part because of the higher cost of energy, the Eurozone is in recession even as the U.S. experiences solid growth thanks to affordable energy.
As the world’s largest natural gas producer, natural gas is a cornerstone of the U.S.’s economic success even as it acts as the primary driver of decarbonization. It plays a crucial role in reducing emissions while supporting economic growth. As we move forward, the continued focus on natural gas not only secures a cleaner environment but also ensures economic stability and growth. The U.S. stands as a testament to the fact that environmental responsibility and economic prosperity can go hand in hand, setting a global standard for energy innovation and sustainable development.