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Environment

U.S. CO2 emissions from natural gas to top coal’s

by Jeff Johnson, special to C&EN
August 21, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 33

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas to generate electricity will exceed CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants this year, according to projections from the Energy Information Administration. When burned, natural gas creates about half the CO2 emissions of coal per unit of energy delivered, EIA notes, but this greenhouse gas advantage is being offset by natural gas’s greater use. The recent bonanza of natural gas has resulted in falling prices and a shift by U.S. utilities from coal to natural gas. Until about 2005, natural gas and coal consumption were similar, EIA says, but beginning about 2007 natural gas consumption slowly exceeded coal. That trend grew and will continue, EIA says, as utilities continue to build power plants that use cheaper natural gas and shut down coal units. By the end of 2016, CO2 emissions from natural gas use will be 10% higher than those from coal, EIA predicts.

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