Wall Street Journal Article. April 18, 2013
By RUSSELL GOLD
U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions have fallen dramatically in recent years, in large part because the country is making more electricity with natural gas instead of coal.
Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level since 1994, according to a recent estimate by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.
Natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as coal when used to make electricity, though the calculation fails to take into account the release of methane from natural-gas wells and pipelines, which also contributes to climate change.
Few people predicted this drop in carbon emissions. “Everybody just figured that emissions were just going to continue to increase rapidly,” says Ted Nordhaus, chairman of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank based in Oakland, Calif. “Nobody was expecting the worst recession since the Great Depression, but also no one was really expecting this remarkable shift from coal to gas either.”
Last year, 30% of power in the U.S. came from burning natural gas, up from 19% in 2005, driven by drilling technologies that have unlocked large and inexpensive new supplies of the fuel.
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