Energy Information Administration (EIA) Administrator Adam Sieminski told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that EIA is projecting 2016 U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will be at their lowest levels since 1992.
And Sieminski could not have been clearer as to the reason CO2 emissions will fall to their lowest levels in 24 years.
“The drop in CO2 emissions is largely the result of low natural gas prices, which have contributed to natural gas displacing a large amount of coal used for electricity generation.”
Of course, current record natural gas inventories are a direct result of the shale gas revolution made possible by hydraulic fracturing. From the report:
“Natural gas working inventories were 3,288 billion cubic feet (Bcf) on July 29. This level is 13% higher than last year during the same week, and 16% higher than the previous five-year (2011-15) average for that week. EIA projects that natural gas inventories will be 4,042 Bcf at the end of October 2016, which would be the highest end-of-October level on record.”
EIA also estimates the amount of electricity generated using natural gas reached a record high in July, surpassing the previous record set in July 2015 by a whopping nine percent. EIA forecasts natural gas generating 34 percent of U.S. electricity in 2016, compared to 30 percent for coal.
“Sustained low natural gas prices have led the power industry to produce record levels of electricity using natural gas in recent months… The record natural gas-fired generation was driven by competitive economics compared with coal (despite recent natural gas price increases) and by warmer-than-normal temperatures that boosted overall electricity generation.”
Not coincidentally, EIA is projecting U.S. 2016 CO2 emissions to drop to 5.2 billion metric tons, down 1.5 percent from 2015 levels, according to the Examiner.
Energy related CO2 emissions fell 2.7 percent last year, which is no surprise considering natural gas also overtook coal as the leading source of U.S. electricity generation for the first time in April 2015 and was the top electrical generation fuel in each of the last six months of 2015.
This report is just the latest EIA data that clearly illustrates natural gas is spearheading the current trend toward the lowest CO2 emissions in nearly a quarter century.
EIA has noted that the current shift of electrical generation fuels from coal to natural gas accounted for 68 percent of the 14 percent total reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions during last decade. Those reductions have also occurred at the same time the economy grew 15 percent, and thanks to natural gas’ more prominent role in electrical generation, energy production no longer the top industrial source of CO2 emissions.
If the latest EIA data is any indication, this is a distinction that the U.S. — thanks to fracking — will enjoy for years to come.