According to the latest numbers released by the Energy Information Agency, coal use for electricity generation in the United States has dropped a massive 19% just in the past year, with the first quarter of 2012 relying on coal for 36% of overall energy.
Natural gas is rapidly replacing coal, making up 28.7% of the United States’ power during the first quarter of 2012. Increased gas exploration and subsequent falling natural gas prices are a big reason why these changes are starting to occur.
While there is still controversy surrounding natural gas, particularly when it’s obtained via fracking, studies have shown that natural gas extracted by conventional means has considerably lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal, even with massive leaks and flaring. It’s nowhere near the perfect energy source, but it’s definitely a step.
Natural gas obtained through fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has significantly higher emissions. The amount varies according to who is doing the analysis and calculations, but in some instances, natural gas obtained via fracking has higher emissions than coal.
As far as the natural gas supply in the United States goes, fracking isn’t a large part of it, although it hasn’t been banned like it has in some other countries. This decline in coal means it’s good news for reducing the country’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions, with carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels expected to decline by nearly 3% this year.
Of course, the perfect solution to any of this would be to replace both coal and natural gas with 100% renewable energy, but this is still a step in the right direction. No coal is good coal, and as we all know, there’s no time to waste when it comes to finding safe alternatives.