Editorial: Nat Gas Set To Dethrone King Coal?

Tim Haïdar


"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.
" - Milton Berle (1908 – 2002)

Yesterday the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Gina McCarthy, explained to assembled media the new raft of standards set to slash carbon emissions across the country.

The regulations will target a 30 per cent cut in carbon output, using 2005 as a baseline level. These new stringencies will apply predominantly to the coal power plants currently responsible for 39 per cent of CO2 emissions in the United States.

As of this morning, 19 of the 50 US states derived more than half their electricity from coal-fired plants. States like West Virginia and Kentucky in the Appalachian coal belt generate as much as 90 per cent of their electricity from coal.

While this may be a slap in the face for the industry that provides more than 35 per cent of US power, there is a huge opportunity for the fuel that provides just under 30 per cent: natural gas. Capitalising on the shale boom, President Obama has referred to American natural gas as "the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution".

At 4.4 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum, the US is second only to the People’s Republic of China on the list of worst offenders with regards to carbon emissions. It is now also the largest producer of natural gas in the world, producing some 24.3 trillion cubic feet (688 billion m³) in 2013.

It is unlikely that King Coal will be forced to abdicate his throne with China and India constructing four new coal plants every week and Japan seeking to fill their nuclear void with lignite. That said, the Obama administration has built a door. Will it open out onto the wider world?....

Is the EPA’s ruling on coal the signal for LNG to accede to the energy throne in the US? Have your say here