Increasing natural gas use in businesses and homes as well as within the transportation and manufacturing sectors can help the US cut greenhouse gas emissions in the near to medium term, according to a report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
The C2ES report, Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, examines the challenges and opportunities in leveraging the recent boom in domestic natural gas production to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report looks at the implications of using more natural gas within key sectors of the economy and recommends policies and actions needed to maximize the climate benefits of its use in the power generation, buildings, manufacturing and transportation industries.
US emissions have declined as power plants have switched from coal to natural gas. US power plants cut emissions from nitrous oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and CO2 in 2011 even as overall electricity generation increased, according to data released last month from the Energy Information Administration and the EPA. The emissions reductions have been largely due to increased use of natural gas and growing reliance on renewable energy.
The C2ES report recommends increasing direct use of natural gas in homes and businesses by replacing certain electric appliances, such as space and water heaters, with natural gas models. Opportunities to increase use also include substituting natural gas for diesel and gasoline in fleets and heavy-duty trucks and using it in more efficient combined heat and power systems in manufacturing facilities.
The report also recommends expanding the use of natural gas powered fuel cells and microturbines that make use of waste heat.
C2ES identified a number of challenges, such as regulatory hurdles, the lack of incentives for on-site distributed power generation, identifying methane leaks from the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas, and funding expensive infrastructure to deliver natural gas to more homes and businesses.