Four Ways the Final Clean Power Plan Limits the Rush to Natural Gas
Earlier this week we watched history being made as President Obama and EPA Administrator McCarthy announced the release of the final Clean Power Plan, setting the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants. The final plan includes a major improvement that UCS has championed over the last year: measures that help limit a rush to natural gas as states work to cut their carbon emissions. That’s good news for consumers, and for the climate.
The climate and economic risks of a rush to natural gas
Coal-fired electricity generation has been in a steady decline since 2007, as the market shifts to cheaper, cleaner sources like natural gas and renewable energy. In fact, for one month in April 2015, for the first time since 1973 when the EIA started tracking monthly data, the share of natural gas in our electricity mix exceeded the share of coal.
But a rush to natural gas brings considerable consumer, health and climate risks. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel (albeit cleaner burning than coal), and also has risks of methane leakage in its production, distribution and storage. Natural gas plays an important role in our efforts to decarbonize the power sector and can complement generation from renewable resources. But simply switching our dependence on coal for an overreliance on natural gas isn’t sufficient for the deep cuts in carbon emissions required by mid-century.
Furthermore, an overdependence on gas exposes consumers to the risks of electricity price spikes related to natural gas price volatility. UCS has previously pointed the risks of natural gas overreliance that a state like Florida faces, for instance.