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Natural Gas: Earth and Sky Friendly

Natural gas – the ultimate “alternative” fuel of the future? Yes, the same natural gas first commercially used in the United States in western New York in the early 19th century. When it comes to dealing with issues surrounding pollution and the environment, carbon management and energy security, natural gas is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Yes, natural gas is a “fossil fuel.” But natural gas is far more environmentally attractive than oil, coal, and electricity produced with fossil fuels. Of the major sources of energy in the United States, natural gas is the cleanest, most efficient, cost effective, and abundant, producing less pollution and fewer greenhouse gasses than its counterparts.

Gas=Environmental Benefit: Fewer Greenhouse Gasses chart

Source: Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions:

The primary byproducts of burning natural gas are carbon dioxide and water. But natural gas produces LESS carbon dioxide than other commonly used energy sources. According to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas emits 44 percent LESS CO2 than electricity and nearly 28 percent LESS CO2 than fuel oil.


Natural gas generates less sulfur dioxide (a cause of acid rain), less nitrogen oxides (that can produce smog) and less particulate matter than oil or coal, which is primarily used for electric generation. The cleanliness of gas means that not only does it produce less pollution, but also environmental controls on gas equipment are usually much less expensive than for other fuels. Additionally, technological progress allows cleaner energy production today than in the past. Natural gas use means cleaner air whether used for home space heating, water heating, cooking, clothes drying, and in the case of natural gas vehicles, cars, trucks, buses, and commercial and industrial processes.

Pounds of Air Pollutants per Billion Btus of Energy

Carbon Dioxide 117,000 164,000 208,000
Carbon Monoxide 40 33 208
Nitrogen Oxides 92 448 457
Sulfur Dioxide 1 1,122 2,591
Particulates 7 84 2,744
Mercury 0.0000 0.0007 0.016

Source: EIA, DOE

More Efficient:

Natural gas appliances are more energy efficient than their electric counterparts, and natural gas users thus conserve energy resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the American Gas Association (AGA), the average customer today uses 40 percent less natural gas than they did 40 years ago. While the number of natural gas residential customers increased 71% since 1970, total use of natural gas and greenhouse gases has remained flat. By using energy wisely, weatherizing homes, using energy-efficient appliances and installing programmable thermostats, customers reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Efficiency graphic: Electricity vs. Natural Gas

Clean Electricity:

Electricity demand is still growing to light our homes and businesses as well as power computers and other electronic devices. Clean-burning natural gas is used to generate an increasing amount of electricity, providing over one-fourth of our nation's electricity in 2014. As older, coal-burning electric generation facilities are phased out for environmental reasons, the nation is relying more on natural gas to reduce pollution and total greenhouse gases produced by electric generation.

Net Electricity Generation by Fuel

Source: EIA, DOE

Site vs. Source Emissions:

When talking clean and efficient, many people mistakenly think electricity. But how is that electricity generated? When considering all the energy waste in electric generation (the full-fuel cycle), the Gas Technology Institute states that only 32 percent ultimately makes it to the end user. The overall efficiency of natural gas is 92 percent! The highly esteemed National Academies (of Science, of Engineering, Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council) recommended that the Department of Energy (DOE) should consider changing its measurement of appliance energy efficiency to one based on the full-fuel cycle. This more accurate measurement would provide consumers with more complete information on energy use and environmental impacts. For this reason, the EPA uses source energy in calculating the ENERGY STAR performance rating for buildings, designed to improve building efficiency and reduce carbon emissions nationally.

Natural Gas – Your Most Energy Efficient Choice:

In the coming years, America faces significant energy challenges. Although there are renewable forms of energy on the horizon that show promise, according to the EIA, solar and wind-generated renewable power made up approximately 5 percent of our nation's energy supply in 2014. Total renewables including hydropower brings the amount of renewable power to 13 percent. Until other alternatives can be produced abundantly and cost-effectively, natural gas, first used commercially in 1821 in western New York, will continue to be the miracle fuel of the future that is available today.

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