Natural gas and renewables will be most of US power and US will export oil, coal and gas

Natural gas is continuing to dominate energy usage in the United States. Coal provided 60% of US electrical power 30 years ago and was still providing 50% in 2005.

Coal is very competitive in certain parts of the United States, including in the coal hotbeds of Appalachia and the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.

Natural gas power generation is up 17% this year. Natural gas production continues to rise. By itself natural gas is heading to 35% of US electrical power in 2019. All of the hydro, solar, wind and biomass (ethanol) will be another 15%. Combined they will be over 50% of US electrical power generation.

Depending on oil and energy prices the US will become a major net exporter of fossil fuels. The US is already exporting coal and some oil and gas. This will become a major amount. As recently as 2005, the US was importing 30% of its energy. The US is still a net importer of 10% of its energy. By 2020-2022, the US should pass to become a net exporter. If oil prices are high then natural gas prices would tend to follow as well. High prices would mean supply and production shortages elsewhere and the US could scale up to exporting 20% of its energy before 2030.

BTU anticipates 56 new or converted natural gas plants to come online by the end of next year.

CO2 emissions better but not as good as hoped

In theory, natural gas can have 50-60% of the emissions of coal. Fracking releases large amounts of natural gas – which consists of both CO2 and methane – directly into the atmosphere. Fracking wells can leak 40 to 60% more methane than conventional natural gas wells.

The Natural gas revolution did reduce overall US emissions from 2000. However, it is not tracking the optimal 50-60% of coal CO2 emissions. After declining by 0.9% in 2017, EIA forecasts that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will rise by 2.0% in 2018. The increase largely reflects higher natural gas consumption because of a colder winter and warmer summer than in 2017. Emissions are forecast to decline by 0.8% in 2019. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, energy prices, and fuel mix.

Increased natural gas use is also because natural gas plants back up the intermittent solar and wind power. Solar generating from 10am to 5pm with variation based on clouds. Wind also generating at different times.

Here is the energy breakdown for the USA.

Energy                      2017 (TWH)   2018 YTD   Last 12 months
Natural gas                     1273       655               1362
Coal                            1208       542               1176
Nuclear                          805       403                821
Wind, ethanol and biomass        334       192                350
Hydro                            300       162                287
Solar                             53        33                 60
Other including oil, coke         42        23                 45
Overall electricity             4015      2012               4102