In the year 2015 out of 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity generated in the US, 33% was by burning fossil fuel and the same amount was by burning natural gas. As per the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports, up to this year natural gas keeps on producing same 33% share of electricity but that by coal has dropped down to 27%. The decline in the power generation by burning coal has occurred at a rapid pace during the past decade, and natural gas use has been ascending at the same time. Coal powered power generation was approximately 50% of the U.S.’s total electricity generation as recently as 2008. The rise in the use of clean-burning natural gas has helped in reducing US carbon emissions from power production to the lowest in 22 years.
The US has been a coal powered country for decades, this is due to simple reasons – abundant availability of it and the power generated from it was always affordable as compared to competitors except hydropower, but that is always geographical dependent and limited to specific regions. This clearly meant switching to any other method of power generation would burden the country’s economy and also increase in energy bill for common American households. But an era came when the environmental impact was seen as the more severe threat than just the direct cost of energy. The coal mines are also detrimental to the environment. Moreover, it’s a fact that coal power emits more pollutants than any other power source except for wood.
The greater emphasis on environmental issues as the damage was irrevocable and much more detrimental dramatically changed the scenario of the coal power in the country. Also at the same time came a significant and likely permanent drop in natural gas prices by the fracking revolution. It is also important to note here that the policymakers of the country also realized the urgent need to address the climate change issue and supported the gas-fired power stations. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laid their new stringent emission standards and regulations, natural gas-fired generation became the present necessity instead of future prospects. It is estimated that by 2035 natural gas-fired power will be more than 40% of the countries requirement. Although the Obama administration is extending tax credits and incentives for solar and wind power and other renewables, still there is a long way to go to solve the energy puzzle about the “baseload” supply, and at the same time strike the balance of environment to reduce the climate change effects. Therefore natural gas is proving itself to be an integral piece of the energy puzzle.