Natural gas will produce more carbon emissions than coal this year for the first time since 1972, according to a federal analysis.
The Energy Information Administration, the analysis arm of the Department of Energy, released a report Wednesday showing carbon dioxide emissions produced by natural gas are expected to pass coal this year for the first time in decades. The cause is increasing demand and use of natural gas, according to the report.
Natural gas releases less carbon dioxide when burned than coal, but consumption of natural gas has increased and coal consumption has decreased to the point that they have switched places on the carbon emissions rankings.
Natural gas consumption in 2015 was 81 percent higher than coal consumption, but their emissions were nearly equal, according to the report.
"Because coal has a higher carbon intensity, even in a year when consumption of coal and natural gas were nearly equal, such as 2005, energy-related CO2 emissions from coal were about 84 percent higher than those from natural gas," the report said.
Petroleum fuel is still the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide, the report said.
For 15 years, consumption rates of coal and natural gas were about equal. However, natural gas has taken off in popularity during the last decade as the fracking boom has created a lot of supply and cheap prices, while coal use has plummeted.
Consumption of non-fossil fuel energy actually surpassed coal consumption in 2015, according to the report.