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Natural Gas: A Bridge Fuel for the 21st Century

SOURCE: AP/Kiichiro Sato

Natural gas can serve as a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels. Above, a Honda Civic GX fills up with natural gas.

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Download the full memo (pdf)

Download a map of shale natural gas plays in the lower 48 states (pdf)

Summary

Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel—it produces less than half as much carbon pollution as coal. Recent technology advancements make affordable the development of unconventional natural gas resources. This creates an unprecedented opportunity to use gas as a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources, and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Despite the potential energy, economic, and security benefits of natural gas, the recently House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, does not include enough opportunities to expand its use. The Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition therefore propose a number of policies that would increase the use of natural gas and low-carbon energy sources while providing additional protection for our climate and communities.

Electricity

  • Establish incentives to retire aging, inefficient, dirty coal-fired power plants, and replace them with renewable and low-carbon electricity.
  • Create a renewables integration credit to offset specific costs associated with producing high levels of renewable energy and to reward going beyond the renewable electricity standard.
  • Establish a dedicated incentive for development and deployment of “dispatchable” renewable energy to build markets for electricity storage technology.
  • Require that the carbon price and other costs are included when determining the dispatch order for moving electricity onto the grid to prioritize natural gas and other clean electricity.
  • Expand carbon capture-and-storage provisions to include other permanent storage technologies in addition to geologic sequestration. Ensure that carbon capture and storage research and deployment efforts include retrofitting existing coal- and gas-fired power plants.
  • Remove regulatory barriers to recycling waste heat and power.

Transportation

  • Expand the market for natural gas as a heavy-duty transportation fuel by increasing incentives for gas-powered buses and heavy trucks.
  • Create incentives for communities to develop bus rapid transit systems that employ buses fueled by natural gas.

Clean natural gas development

  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the impact of natural gas production on air, water, land, and global warming. Include a compilation of best practices and recommendations for new state safeguards.
  • Support public disclosure requirements on the release of toxic chemicals used during the production of natural gas.
  • Expand the Natural Gas STAR program where natural gas producers voluntarily capture and resell methane—a potent greenhouse gas—instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Current participants make money on these methane sales. Medium and large emitters must undertake this practice.

Research

  • Conduct research on more efficient turbines, storage of renewable electricity, and other technologies that would generate no- or low-carbon energy.

Download the full memo (pdf)

Download a map of shale natural gas plays in the lower 48 states (pdf)

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, poverty, Half in Ten Education Fund, women's issues)
202.741.6285 or kpeters@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention, the National Security Agency)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (energy and environment, Legal Progress, higher education)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org