America’s Air Continues to Improve. Why? (Hint: Natural Gas is Part of the Solution)

Recent decades have seen dramatic improvements in air quality, even as the economy, population, and energy consumption increased, according to a new EPA report. What’s one of the key drivers of this clean air progress? Abundant, affordable American natural gas.

From 1990-2017, emissions from six key pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide) dropped 73 percent, according to the annual air report. This steady improvement in air quality occurred “while the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased,” the EPA observed.

Some successes highlighted in the report include:

  • Sulfur dioxide dropped by 88 percent.
  • Lead declined by 80 percent.
  • Carbon monoxide is now down 77 percent.
  • Nitrogen dioxide was cut in half.
  • Particulate matter decreased by 40 percent.

These pollutants, which are harmful to both the environment and the public’s health, declined dramatically alongside significant growth in domestic natural gas production and use.

As clean-burning natural gas generates an increasingly larger share of U.S. electricity, America continues to realize meaningful air quality improvements. In Pennsylvania, for example, more than a dozen natural gas power plants are under construction, have been permitted or brought online recently.

These facilities generate round-the-clock, reliable, clean power for millions of Pennsylvania homes.

Not only has this over-all shift to natural gas improved air quality, it’s driving job creation and creating a path to energy independence. As acting EPA administrator Andrew Wheeling commented:

Through federal and state implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances in the private sector, America has achieved one of the great public-private successes of our time—dramatically improving air quality and public health while simultaneously growing the nation’s population and economy.

This recent air report comes just a week after the EPA and Department of Conservation and Natural Development released findings of clean air and pristine waters in areas with shale development. Such results reaffirm the safety of clean-burning, locally produced natural gas, which is helping to create jobs, stimulate the national economy, and all the while helping to attain a cleaner environment.