Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel—it produces less than half as much carbon pollution as coal. Recent technology advancements make affordable the development of unconventional natural gas resources. This creates an unprecedented opportunity to use gas as a bridge fuel to a 21st-century energy economy that relies on efficiency, renewable sources and low-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas.

Despite the potential energy, economic and security benefits of natural gas, the recently House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454) does not include enough opportunities to expand its use. The Center for American Progress and the Energy Future Coalition therefore propose a number of policies that would increase the use of natural gas and low-carbon energy sources while providing additional protection for our climate and communities.


--Establish incentives to retire aging, inefficient, dirty, coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable and low-carbon electricity.

--Create a renewables integration credit to offset specific costs associated with producing high levels of renewable energy and to reward going beyond the renewable electricity standard.

--Establish a dedicated incentive for development and deployment of “dispatchable” renewable energy to build markets for electricity storage technology. --Require that the carbon price and other costs are included when determining the dispatch order for moving electricity onto the grid to prioritize natural gas and other clean electricity.

--Expand carbon-capture and -storage provisions to include other permanent storage technologies in addition to geologic sequestration. Ensure that carbon-capture and -storage research and deployment efforts include retrofitting existing coal- and gas-fired power plants.

--Remove regulatory barriers to recycling waste heat and power.


--Expand the market for natural gas as a heavy-duty transportation fuel by increasing incentives for gas-powered buses and heavy trucks.

--Create incentives for communities to develop rapid-transit systems that employ buses fueled by natural gas.

Clean natural gas development

--Conduct a comprehensive analysis of the impact of natural gas production on air, water, land and global warming. Include a compilation of best practices and recommendations for new state safeguards.

--Support public-disclosure requirements on the release of toxic chemicals used during the production of natural gas.

--Expand the Natural Gas STAR program in which natural gas producers voluntarily capture and resell methane—a potent greenhouse gas—instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Current participants make money on these methane sales. Medium and large emitters must undertake this practice.


--Conduct research on more efficient turbines, storage of renewable electricity and other technologies that would generate no- or low-carbon energy.

--John Podesta and Timothy E. Wirth

About the authors: John Podesta is president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress. He can be reached at and 202-344-0404. Tim Wirth is president of the U.N. Foundation. He can be reached at and 202-277-2103. Click for their 11-page report podestawirthnaturalgasmemo09, “Natural Gas: The Bridge Fuel To The 21st Century.” Click for the press release podestawirthpressrelease09. Click for a map shalegasmapoilandgasinvestoraugust09 of U.S. shale gas.