U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry this week expressed support for natural gas as a long-term energy source, provided that the resulting carbon emissions are abated. 

World Energy mix 2040

“I’m for gas as this transitional effort, and I hope someone will come up with the technology that can affordably find a way to capture the emissions,” Kerry said during a virtual panel at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Gas by itself is not the problem,” Kerry said. He added that the problem is the carbon dioxide emissions that result from burning methane, the primary component of natural gas. 

He cited that the unabated greenhouse gas emissions of burning natural gas are roughly half those of coal, “so I’m for gas. I’ll take a gas turbine in the place of a coal-fired power plant anytime…”

The caveat, he said, is that “if you’re talking about a 30- or 40-year horizon, which is currently necessary in terms of amortizing the cost of that, you’ve got a problem if you don’t have the abatement. So that’s what everybody has to understand…We’re not going to solve the problem unless we can capture and store, or find a utilization for carbon.”

Oil and gas lobbying groups such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) also have advocated for expanding carbon capture, storage and utilization (CCUS).

“We think there’s a whole suite of things that the government can do in this space as well as the private sector,” API’s Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs, told NGI last month.

Macchiarola cited the proposed $100 billion CCUS project in Houston under development by a group of companies led by ExxonMobil, as well as the Internal Revenue Service Section 45Q tax credit for CCUS. 

The 45Q incentive “is an important component of tax policy that helps advance CCUS,” he said. “We would like to see that extended and expanded…There are a whole host of areas where we can increase and elevate our investments in this important technology. We think the cost of those investments today will pay off in helping to meet our shared objectives of energy security, and tackling the climate challenge.”

President Biden also endorsed combining fossil fuel power generation with CCUS in a recent executive order directing the federal government – the largest energy consumer in the nation – to achieve 100% carbon-neutral electricity consumption on a net basis by 2030. 

In its Sustainable Development Scenario, the International Energy Agency models natural gas and oil supplying nearly half the world’s energy in 2040, even if every nation meets the targets of the 2015 United Nations global climate agreement, aka the Paris Agreement.

Natural gas supplied 40.5% of U.S. power generation in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration.