Natural Gas Provides Globe-Changing Alternative to Coal

The U.S. has significantly cut its coal usage, and subsequently our greenhouse gas emissions, over the last fifteen years. While the U.S. has reached record levels of natural gas production due to our vast supply of domestic resources, other countries around the globe continue to rely on dirty coal for their energy needs. A recent piece in Oil Price details this unfortunate reality with the (rhetorical) question, “Why the world just can’t kick coal.”

Our nation’s coal demand has plummeted due to the abundance of natural gas at our disposal. At the same time, the U.S.’ development of renewable technologies, as well as the advancement of environmental regulations, have also contributed to the fuel’s decline. The author, Robert Rapier, writes in his article, “the advent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and advanced drilling techniques led to a significant expansion of natural gas production, resulting in lower natural gas prices. Many power plants have shifted from coal to natural gas as it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and can be more economically viable.”

Though the U.S. has made significant strides to limit coal use and reduce emissions, other nations around the world have actually increased their coal dependence. The U.S. accounts for 6.6 percent of the world’s coal consumption, while China accounts for 55 percent. The Asia Pacific region as a whole is responsible for 81 percent of the world’s coal usage, and that number is growing due to coal’s relative cheapness, geographical abundance in the area and rising industrialization. Even more unfortunate is the rebounding coal demand in Europe due to the energy crisis cased by the war in Ukraine. As countries decoupled themselves from Russian natural gas and oil, coal plant closures were delayed as energy emergency measures.

The U.S. must continue to explore, produce and export our abundant natural gas reserves. While many Western nations push a transition to renewables that is years away onto developing nations, natural gas offers a cleaner alternative to coal, the resource many industrializing economies continue to rely on. Building more energy infrastructure will facilitate a decrease in global coal consumption, whether it is pipelines to get the product to domestic markets, or terminals to export our natural gas to developing nations. It is right to focus on domestic emissions reductions, but the U.S. can also play a larger role in the energy usage of developing nations around the world.

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