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6 MIN   |  Economy, Energy Security

Your Questions About Natural Gas, Answered

Natural gas is powering our modern way of life and helping to cut CO2 emissions. Here’s what this energy revolution is all about.

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December 2, 2019

Today, American natural gas is powering cars, electric grids, home heating — and a revolution.

Natural gas is cleaner, and that has helped to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. to their lowest levels in 25 years, even as energy production has increased dramatically to meet record demand. Additionally, our strong domestic natural gas supply has reduced our dependency on foreign fuel sources, helping to boost our energy security.

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Here’s what you need to know about the energy source fueling progress:

1) What is natural gas?

A cleaner, abundant energy source that has changed how we power the nation.

Natural gas is an abundant energy source formed deep below the Earth’s surface. It’s found in a variety of places across the U.S. and worldwide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of technological discoveries made it possible to safely and affordably produce natural gas. Thanks to these advancements, we’re now in the midst of a “natural gas revolution,” with the U.S. benefiting from an abundant, cleaner and domestic energy source.    

2) What does natural gas power?

Electrical grids and much more.

Historically, natural gas powered streetlights and heated homes. Today, natural gas is an important ingredient in fertilizer, antifreeze, plastics, pharmaceuticals and fabrics and powers our electric grid, meaning the lights or electronics in your home could be powered by natural gas. In 2018, natural gas was the source of 35% of electricity generation in the U.S., making it the leading energy source, ahead of coal, nuclear, hydro, solar and wind power.

3) How has the use of natural gas affected how much we pay for energy?

It’s keeping prices low.

The amount American households spent on energy fell 10.5% between 2007 and 2017 because of the growing supply of natural gas, when measured in nominal dollars. America’s plentiful supply of natural gas helped reduce the average American household’s energy costs by 15% between 2008 and 2019. In the same timeframe, health care spending increased nearly 74%, education expenses rose 38%, and food expenditures went up 27%.

4) How does natural gas compare with other traditional energy sources?

It’s cleaner and is making us less reliant on other countries for energy.

Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel and has helped the U.S. dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which recently fell to 25-year lows. Natural gas produces half the carbon dioxide emissions as coal and 27% less carbon than heating fuel. 

Natural gas, which is produced in 34 states, is incredibly plentiful in the U.S. This has helped to reduce our dependency on foreign energy.

5) How can natural gas save me money?

By driving down energy costs.

The known U.S. natural gas supply is so abundant that we could continue to produce the natural gas we know about today for 128 years. This large supply helps to drive costs down. Today, the share of U.S. households’ spending on energy has reached its lowest point since 2007.

6) What does natural gas mean for the environment?

There’s less carbon dioxide in the air.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently reported that almost two-thirds of the carbon dioxide emission reductions between 2006 and 2014 were achieved because the U.S. substituted natural gas for other electricity generation sources, such as coal. Natural gas is a cleaner, environmentally friendly energy source that offers a solution to help lower the world’s carbon footprint — just as it has helped reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 25-year lows. 

7) How can natural gas improve American energy security?

By reducing our need for foreign energy.

The U.S. has already moved from being dependent on foreign energy to being a leading energy exporter because of exceptional innovations that have made it possible to produce more natural gas.

8) Does the U.S. export natural gas?

Yes — and this is helping the environment in the U.S. and around the world.

In recent years, U.S. natural gas exports hit record highs. Countries such as Canada, Mexico, China and Japan now use American natural gas instead of coal. This transition is helping to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and has health benefits for people in those countries, too.

In China, as natural gas demand increased nearly 900% between 2009 and 2018, air quality has improved dramatically. In the past five years, winter air quality in Beijing has improved 78% because natural gas is used instead of coal as an energy source.

As families in China and India gain access to natural gas, they no longer need to burn coal and biomass in their homes for heat or cooking. Eliminating that smoke has helped to reduce respiratory illnesses.

9) Why should the nation invest in both natural gas and renewable energy sources?

Energy demand continues to grow year over year, and the natural gas and oil industry is actively investing in multiple energy sources ­— including natural gas and renewables. We’re working to develop the fuels of the future, whatever they might be.

Natural gas is a cleaner way to power our planet and our country and makes renewable energy possible. Natural gas is used worldwide as a backstop to wind and solar power. If there’s no wind or sun, natural gas can quickly be substituted, ensuring reliable and consistent electricity.

10) What’s next for natural gas?

It will help us meet the growing demand for energy.

The role of natural gas in our energy mix will only continue to grow as the world uses more energy and electricity. The Energy Information Administration projects that world energy use will increase nearly 50% by 2050, with Asia leading the way.

Energy use in China, in particular, is expected to surge. Access to American natural gas exports will reduce the need to use coal to meet this need, helping to avert a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide emissions.

Natural gas also will play a crucial part in helping us to achieve one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: ensuring universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030. Today, one billion people worldwide still don’t have access to electricity. Exports of American natural gas will help to solve that problem, bringing cleaner, consistent energy to those who need it. 

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