Natural gas fueled more than thirty-eight percent of the U.S. grid’s generation of electricity over the last four calendar quarters. In the process, the gas fired generators put out a little less than thirteen percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from all sources.
Or a little less than two percent of the world’s total emissions. Roughly equivalent to Iran’s emissions.
Yes, natural gas generation emits carbon dioxide. Paradoxically, though, it’s the main reason the grid’s emissions have and are decreasing.
Since gas fired generators emit less than half what coal fired generators emit per unit of power produced. And since the grid has been rapidly ramping up its use of gas plants and ramping down its use of coal plants.
Wind and solar generation emit nothing. They have also been on the rise, at a very fast rate.
The wind and solar generators supplied however twelve and a half percent of the U.S. grid’s generation over the last four quarters. The gas fired generators still produce three times as much of the nation’s power.
Crucially, the gas generators are the grid’s dials. When consumer demand for electricity increases, or when the supply by wind, solar and other generators decrease, the grid’s operators turn up the dials on the gas generators. When the opposite occurs, the grid’s operators turn down the dials on the gas generators.
Which means that when gas generation is constrained, that’s bad news for combating climate change. And if natural gas commodity markets have high prices, as they do now, the grid becomes less able to decarbonize affordably.