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        natural gas celebrates earth day’s

        past, present and future

        This cleaning-burning fuel dominates the energy landscape.

        By Drew Robb

                     ith Earth Day approaching, it is important to take   Back then, there was a lot of discussion around power stations re-
                     a step back and review how well the natural gas   ducing their output of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide. Mark Axford,
                     industry has performed in recent decades on the   president of Axford Turbine Consultants LLC, noted that emissions
        W environmental front, why it is good for the environ-  from coal-based power plants were as much as 50 times higher than
        ment today, and how it is preparing to be a responsible environmen-  they are today compared to the latest state-of-the-art natural gas-
        tal steward for the future.                            powered generation plants. Today, the discussion has moved on to
                                                               efforts to lower carbon footprint.
        earTh day’S PaST                                        “As power generated from natural gas is so efficient, a modern
          Many don’t realize how far the country has come from the old   plant emits about 50% less carbon dioxide than a modern coal plant
        days of rampant pollution, heavy smog, dumping of toxic chemicals,   that is outfitted with the latest environmental technologies,” Axford
        indiscriminate use of pesticides and massive oil spills. The late ‘60s   said. “Natural gas is so clean that it burns without traces of soot,
        were a period of raised awareness about the need to take care of the   sulfur or mercury.”
        planet. That led to the establishment of the Environmental Protec-  EPA data shows that annual emissions from the natural gas distri-
        tion Agency (EPA) in 1970 and new rules impacting power stations   bution system declined 69% from 1990 to 2019, even as natural gas
        as well as national air quality standards.             utility companies added more than 788,000 miles of pipeline to serve
                                                               21 million more customers. In other words, despite a huge increase
                                                               in population, the addition of a massive number of pipelines, and
                                                               the fact that home users consume far more energy than ever, natural
                                                               gas emissions fell dramatically.
                                                               earTh day’S PreSenT
                                                                As a result, natural gas generation now dominates the energy land-
                                                               scape. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Informa-
                                                               tion Administration (EIA), natural gas is by far the biggest source of
                                                               power generation in the nation, with more than a 40% share. That is
                                                               more than double the share of the next highest contributors, which
                                                               are coal and all renewable sources, each at just under 20%.
                                                                Coal used to be the dominant source of power in the United States.
                                                               But the country has seen a decade or more of coal plant closures. They
                                                               have been replaced by the powerful combination of renewable energy
                                                               sources and natural gas-powered generation facilities. While the num-
                                                               ber of renewable energy sources is steadily rising, the nation continues
                                                               to rely on clean-burning natural gas to keep the lights on and provide
                                                               the energy the nation vitally needs – both in the home and in industry.
                                                                Home appliances represent another area of strong environmental
                                                               performance for natural gas. Over the past three decades, the energy
                                                               efficiency rating of natural gas appliances has risen substantially.
        The 2022 Earth Day takes place Friday, April 22, with the theme “Climate Change.”        (continued on page 04)

                                                                              Spring - Summer 2022 ❙  naturalliving 03
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