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How Will Climate Goals Impact Natural Gas Industry?

In a reversal from the previous administration, President Biden has announced new goals to combat climate change through reduced emissions and a revamping of the American energy industry.

The President has been steadfast in his work to reverse the deregulatory efforts of the previous administration through various measures. Such moves include rejoining the Paris Accord, prohibiting any new oil or gas leases to be issued for projects on federal lands, and a $2 trillion infrastructure plan with swaths of money going toward projects to better the environment. Additionally, he pledged at a recent global climate summit to reach a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005’s baseline levels by 2030.

Emissions reductions will come in various forms, both directly and indirectly, including via caps on emissions, and investment in non-fossil fuel energy sources and technologies. This emphasis on phasing out fossil fuels for power generation and eliminating carbon dioxide emissions directly targets natural gas and coal. However, while both are carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels, natural gas has emerged in recent years as a cleaner and more abundant fuel source, emitting approximately half of the carbon dioxide than coal-fired electricity generation.

Many natural gas companies, include those headquartered in southwestern Pennsylvania, have leaned into this distinction, and have taken steps to make natural gas a less-emissive product from extraction to end use, as well as incorporating environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) into their business practices.

The finer details of the President’s plan have not been announced yet, leaving many questions unanswered. For Pennsylvania specifically, many are questioning if and how natural gas will play a part in the future of energy. As a hotbed of natural gas production in the nation, Pennsylvania’s energy industry and economy could be fundamentally changed depending on the coming policies.

The natural gas industry has voiced their hope for a future of natural gas under President Biden’s plans. In a letter signed by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Pittsburgh Works Together, Pennsylvania Manufactures’ Association, Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, these organizations asked the President to strongly consider a place for natural gas in the future of the nation.

In the letter, they argue that “the United States can continue to be an economic and climate leader by embracing responsible natural gas production, infrastructure and use”. Going further, the letter states that “the only technologically feasible way of affordably meeting (President Biden’s) climate goals for a carbon-free electrical by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050,” is to create a “clean, reliable and resilient power grid based on natural gas and renewable energy sources”.

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