- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2014

In dealing a major blow to U.S. coal on Monday, President Obama very well may have tipped the scales in favor of domestic natural gas even more.

Rules put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday call on states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years.

To accomplish that goal, the administration is steering the nation toward natural gas and away from coal, which spews much higher levels of carbon, to generate electricity.

SEE ALSO: EPA tells states: Cut carbon pollution by 30 percent over next 15 years

Mr. Obama specifically cited natural gas as an option, along with cleaner coal and renewable sources.

In a conference call hosted by public health advocacy groups, the president said the 645-page rule is necessary to preserve the planet for future generations. He said the regulation would result in billions of dollars in savings by improving public health and mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change.

“This is something that is important for all of us — as parents, as grandparents, as citizens, as folks who care about the health of our families and also want to make sure that generations are able to enjoy this beautiful blue ball in the middle of space that we’re a part of,” the president said.

SEE ALSO: Kentucky’s Grimes takes swing at Obama’s new coal rules

Analysts said natural gas is the most logical way to meet the EPA targets, barring some major shift in the market.

Mr. Obama, an ardent supporter of renewable energy, was viewed skeptically by the oil and gas sector during his first years in office. With the EPA regulations, however, he may have helped gas become the nation’s dominant fuel for years to come.

“Natural gas is the obvious, most likely path here,” said Bruce Huber, associate professor at Notre Dame Law School who specializes in environmental and energy law. “The major asterisk to that is these markets have a way of changing exceedingly fast. Things could change pretty rapidly.”

Gas boom

For now, embracing natural gas seems to be the easiest way for states to meet the EPA goals, the most sweeping step the administration has taken to date as part of its larger “climate action plan.”

The administration predicts that the amount of electricity generated by natural gas will increase substantially by 2030. The fuel currently provides about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Coal still provides more than 35 percent of electricity, but that number has fallen gradually as natural gas emerges as a leading fuel source.

The technological improvements in hydraulic fracturing, a drilling technique known as fracking, coupled with the discovery of huge deposits in places such as the Marcellus Shale, have radically transformed America’s natural gas sector.

Not even a decade ago, analysts projected that the U.S. would continue to import natural gas. Now, the U.S. produces more natural gas than any other nation on Earth.

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