Natural gas beats coal as main U.S. power source

As of early 2015, natural gas officially overtook coal as the largest power source in the United States, specifically for electricity. Of course, this milestone clearly seemed just a matter of time as the shale natural gas renaissance has been developing all across the country.

Recently, the overwhelming natural gas production success has made the United States the world’s biggest producer natural gas. As a result of increased production, the price of natural gas has decreased dramatically to about a third of what it as a decade ago. With the current low price and steady production, more power companies are opting to use natural gas powered turbines in their plants. Recent data from the U.S. Energy Department and SNL Energy reported that in April about 31 percent of electric power generation came from natural gas, 30 percent from coal, and 20 percent from nuclear energy.

Steve Piper, associate director of energy fundamentals at SNL Energy, commented on the transition from coal to natural gas saying:

“There’s been a change both from a regulatory and economic perspective in terms of the competitiveness of natural gas. The transition from coal has been stunning.”

In addition to the lower prices that have persuaded power companies to switch to natural gas, environmental reasons also played into the decision. Natural gas has a much lower environmental impact than burning coal. Natural gas is a cleaner burning energy source whereas coal produces an abundance of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides when burned. Natural gas produces 43 percent fewer carbon emissions than coal, making it far cleaner burning and more efficient fuel. In addition to the way it’s burned, natural gas is extracted in a more environmentally friendly way, too. Natural gas wells have a minimal impact on the wildlife and the land where it’s being extracted, compared to coal, and also allows land to be reclaimed even after drilling occurs.

In the future, we are more likely to see power companies installing more natural gas turbines at their plants as they embrace the natural gas production surge. As long as the prices stay low and production remains constant, natural gas will remain the main power source for the United States for many years to come. The country has to accept the facts about the rapidly changing energy industry, especially this: natural gas beats coal as main U.S. power source.

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Kelsey Mulac

Kelsey was raised in Indiana, Pennsylvania and attended Pennsylvania State University where she earned a degree in Communications. Kelsey works as the External Affairs Coordinator for Cabot where she manages communications and outreach projects to community members, elected officials, media and online supporters.

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