Like coal, natural gas is a fossil fuel, the result of millions of years of high temperatures and pressures on plant and animal remains. Natural gas is predominantly methane – a small hydrocarbon – but can also contain other gases. While natural gas can be used as a fuel for buses and ships, in various industrial applications, and for cooking at home, its primarily role is as a source for cheap electricity that’s far more efficient and clean than coal. You can explore the uses of natural gas here.
Natural gas’ role in the power generation mix has steadily increased over the past few years, thanks to a variety of factors:
- Higher efficiency. It takes just about 25% less fuel (from a potential energy standpoint) using natural gas to produce the same amount of electricity as coal, oil, or nuclear energy – and natural gas plants are improving their efficiency by being much faster than these other fuel sources.
- Incredible abundance. In 2014, the U.S. had enough natural gas supply for another 93 years. You can learn more about the amount of natural gas available here.
- Lower price. Natural gas is among the cheapest, most flexible solutions for scalable power generation. A list of the price of electricity from different sources can be found here.
All of these factors have one result: natural gas was the primary source of electricity for U.S. in 2016. Natural gas now accounts for 34% of the U.S. source mix, over twice the proportion in 2000.