Move Over, Coal; Natural Gas is Here to Stay

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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King coal has been dethroned by natural gas.

The amount of electricity generated by natural gas exceeded the amount generated by coal in the United States last April for the first time since the government began recording such things, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. This wasn’t just a one month blip either — the same thing happened again in July.

The decrease in coal and increase in natural gas for electricity occurred in every region of the country as gas prices declined from $4.14/MMBtu in July 2014, to $2.91/MMBtu a year later. Coal prices are low as well, but cheap gas and federal regulations targeting coal burning for electricity are making gas a much more lucrative option. Coal has been losing its share of total electricity generated to natural gas for years according to EIA.

The trend will likely lead to a large drop in CO2 emissions, which is part of the Obama administration’s overall energy policy. The Department of Energy agrees with Berkley Earth that “the transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation has probably been the single largest contributor to the … largely unexpected decline in U.S. CO2 emissions.”

Experts assumed America’s natural gas industry was in a terminal decline just 10 years ago. Prices skyrocketed, and it looked like the U.S. would be increasingly dependent on imports. Some academics even suggested natural gas would cease to be a major energy source in America by 2010.

Hydraulic fracturing of shale gas is creating an incredible amount of new natural gas production, making the United States the world’s largest and fastest growing producer of natural gas. It even surpassed Russia’s production earlier this year.

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