11 Maps That Explain Energy In America

2) Natural gas has surged, and now provides 30 percent of electricity

This second map shows all the large natural gas power plants in the contiguous United States:

EIA-natural-gas-plants(Energy Information Administration)
Natural gas power plants in the United States.

As of 2015, there were more than 1,725 gas plants providing about 30 percent of the nation’s electricity. In the month of May, gas even eclipsed coal very briefly.

Natural gas plants tend to be smaller, cheaper to build, and easier to ramp up and down in response to demand fluctuations — which helps explain why they are so many of them. Gas also burns more cleanly than coal, with fewer air pollutants and about half the carbon dioxide.

In the past, the big downside of natural gas was that prices could fluctuate wildly. But thanks to the fracking boom in the late 2000s, many utilities are betting that they can count on a steady supply of cheap natural gas for years to come. Meanwhile, the EPA’s big plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants depends, in part, on a continuing switch from coal to gas.

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