Want to reduce carbon emissions at home and abroad? U.S. policymakers should support increasing both the production and export of clean-burning natural gas. That’s the main takeaway in a recent issue brief published by the Progressive Policy Institute. The report finds that “expanding U.S. natural gas production and exports can cut coal use, lowering domestic and global greenhouse gas emissions.”
As a resource that is abundant to our country, natural gas will play a key role during the transition from dirty coal plants into renewable energy. Switching from coal to liquid natural gas (LNG) provides between a 40-50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A significant portion of the world’s nations still rely on coal-fired power and electricity, which means a large part of lowering global emissions will be how much LNG the U.S. can produce, transport and export around the world.
However, the natural gas industry still faces headwinds that could be resolved through better tailored government reforms, especially permitting reform, which the GAIN coalition has continually advocated in favor of.
The Progressive Policy Institute recommends a number of policies in order to reduce domestic and global emissions:
- Increase domestic gas production. In order to keep domestic natural gas prices low, as well as expand LNG exports to Europe, Asia and other markets, the U.S. needs to support gas production across the country by way of investments and permits. For example, the report notes, U.S. gas production would need to increase 10 percent to account for a doubling of new LNG exports.
- Double U.S. gas exports. The U.S. has already committed to significantly increasing LNG exports to Europe as the continent ends its dependence on Russian energy. In order to keep gas prices low and increase production, the U.S. has to expand natural gas infrastructure, especially pipelines. The report recommends the U.S. “prioritize efforts to provide pipelines and other infrastructure to bring low-cost Appalachian gas to domestic and international markets,” therefore reducing global emissions.
- Improve gas infrastructure. In order to expand gas production and double LNG exports, the U.S. will need to provide significant investments in and permitting reforms of natural gas pipelines and export facilities. Broad energy permitting reforms will also benefit renewable energy projects during the transition supported by natural gas.
- Set a goal of zero-net emissions from gas by 2040. As the country increases natural gas production, doubles LNG exports and supports energy infrastructure through permitting reforms, the U.S. should leverage the reduced domestic and global emissions to pursue a goal of net-zero gas emissions by 2040. This can be accomplished through simultaneous investments in carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, direct air capture and other technologies.
The Biden administration has utilized regulatory hurdles, such as long environmental reviews and complex permitting processes, to disincentivize and stymie energy infrastructure projects. Supporting the natural gas sector via production and export increases provides a clear path towards reducing domestic and global emissions as well as providing economic benefits for the U.S. Natural gas will be a necessity if the U.S. wants to be a global leader in clean energy over the long term.