Why Natural Gas is the Key to Achieving Energy Independence

America has extensive reserves of affordable natural gas that could address three key energy challenges today: energy security, decarbonization, and boosting economic development.

Transport is also much safer since it cannot leak into the soil or water through careless handling or spills.

It’s Cleaner

Many new power plants built today use natural gas as a primary energy source. Unlike its coal and petroleum counterparts, natural gas does not produce nearly as much carbon dioxide when burned. It also emits far fewer other air pollutants than its fossil fuel counterparts, which makes it a cleaner option for electricity generation.

In addition, more than 65 million American homes use natural gas for their heating needs. This abundant, domestic fossil fuel is the best choice for lowering household emissions while cutting electricity bills. When compared to electricity, natural gas costs one-third less per cubic foot. As a result, fracking has unlocked vast reserves of this clean energy resource. The US is now a net natural gas exporter, meaning it no longer relies on imports. The US imported less natural gas in 2016 than any year since 1973.

It’s Safer

One of the advantages of natural gas is it is less polluting compared to coal and oil. It releases fewer air pollutants when burned, including carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides (which contribute to acid rain), and nitrogen oxides, which create ground-level ozone (which can damage forests and crops). And unlike coal-burning power plants, which emit large amounts of mercury, natural gas facilities do not emit dioxins. The flammable fuel is also safer to store and handle than other fossil fuels. The American natural gas pipeline system has an excellent safety record and is operated and maintained in compliance with stringent federal requirements. In addition, it is much safer to transport than gasoline because it does not have a pungent odor. Its distinctive smell is caused by an additive called mercaptan, which is added to help detect leaks and other problems.

In its raw state, natural gas is colorless, tasteless, and odorless. It can be transported in pressurized pipelines across the country and to other countries, where it is converted into liquid natural gas (LNG). LNG is used as a transportation fuel on land and at sea, helping reduce CO2 emissions from cars and trucks.

Natural gas is a bridge fuel for a world moving away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources. As wind and solar farms grow, natural gas will provide a solid complement to ensure a stable, reliable electricity grid during cloudy and windless days.

It’s More Efficient

Natural gas is cleaner-burning than other forms of energy, including coal. When burned, it produces significantly fewer air pollutants and greenhouse gases than coal or oil, making it the cleanest fossil fuel available today. It’s also a key ingredient as we transition to a carbon-free energy system.

The chemical makeup of natural gas is primarily methane, with four hydrogen atoms to one carbon atom. It is an underground gas that drilling may extract, just like oil. It has no color, flavor, or taste. It is used as a feedstock in numerous industrial operations and for cooking, heating homes and businesses, and generating electricity.

In areas where the gas cannot be extracted or contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, it is burned (flared) at the healthy site. Flaring reduces the methane released into the atmosphere and lowers overall emissions by converting the gas into carbon dioxide, which is less potent than greenhouse gas.

It’s More Affordable

Natural gas is one of the most affordable forms of energy available to residential consumers. It costs less to produce than coal or petroleum and is much cleaner to burn. When burned, it emits fewer pollutants, such as sulfur oxide and nitrogen dioxide, than other fossil fuels. The combustion of natural gas produces almost no byproducts other than carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

The US has an ample supply of low-cost, technically recoverable natural gas. As the demand for renewables grows, natural gas-fired power plants can be a reliable complement to ensure a robust and resilient grid. With its flexibility, natural gas can fill in gaps when there are dips in solar and wind production during cloudy or windless days.

While it’s admirable for homeowners to choose more environmentally friendly alternatives to natural gas, they must do their homework first. They need to consider the upfront cost of new appliances and equipment, the availability of alternative energy sources in their area, and whether switching from gas will save them money.

It’s More Flexible

A gas-fired power plant takes less time to start up and shut down than a coal-fired one. It also produces around half as much CO2 and a tenth of the air pollutants when burnt to generate electricity, making it an excellent partner for renewables. But a gas-based energy system needs specific infrastructure to reach consumers, meaning large-scale switching has been limited.

But a more flexible natural gas supply is possible, thanks to the US’s shale revolution and the growth of destination-flexible, hub-priced LNG exports. Greater collaboration between industry, regulators, and consumers could unlock this potential, reducing American prices and increasing US LNG exports.

As a result, the US would be less dependent on foreign oil and benefit from a more stable domestic energy market. That, in turn, would reduce the money the country spends protecting its interests abroad – money better spent promoting other nations’ well-being. It could be a complete panacea, and the United States would remain heavily connected to global energy markets as an importer and exporter of different energy sources and materials.