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04.19.13

Natural Gas: Better than Coal

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images ()

Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are falling in the US:

Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is widely believed to contribute to global warming, have fallen 12% between 2005 and 2012 and are at their lowest level since 1994, according to a recent estimate by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the U.S. Energy Department.

Why? In large part, because of this:

Last year, 30% of power in the U.S. came from burning natural gas, up from 19% in 2005, driven by drilling technologies that have unlocked large and inexpensive new supplies of the fuel.

But as gas prices rise, we're switching back to coal:

These rapid U.S. declines may be short-lived, as natural-gas prices rise and utilities increase coal consumption. "Our coal-fired generation has certainly picked up" in recent months, says Nick Akins, chief executive of Ohio-based American Electric Power Co.

SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images ()

So... carbon tax, anyone? Taxing carbon dioxide emissions strengthens the competitive advantage of natural gas, provides much needed certainty for investors deciding whether to pour more money into lower emission fuels like natural gas, and allows market forces to drive coal into extinction.

Let's do it.