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Natural Gas: A Bridge to a Low-Carbon Future?
Because the emissions from natural gas are about 45 percent lower per Btu than coal, some have suggested that newly revised estimates of U.S. shale gas reserves could mean that gas will be a “bridge” to a low-carbon future. Research from RFF’s Center for Energy Economics and Policy indicates that while natural gas may substitute for coal, it won’t substitute for a carbon policy. The reason: gas also competes with low-carbon energy sources, like renewables and nuclear power. Without a carbon policy, the greenhouse gas emissions from greater use of natural gas are modest, although new natural gas supplies will lower the cost of climate policy. So natural gas is a bridge, but a flimsy one.
Cumulative (2010 - 2035) CO2 Emissions from Two Possible Futures
             Reduction in Cumulative CO2
due to
             Expanded Natural Gas Supplies
Reduction in Cumulative CO2 Emissions due to Expanded Natural Gas Supplies and Carbon Policy
Share of Electricity Generation in 2035 for Three Possible Futures
Source: Brown, Stephen P.A., and Alan J. Krupnick. 2010. Abundant Shale Gas Resources:
Long-Term Implications for U.S. Natural Gas Markets
. Discussion paper 10-41. Washington, DC:
Resources for the Future.
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