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Expand chart
Adapted from IEA's GAS 2019 report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Natural gas was the fastest-growing energy source in the world last year — when global energy consumption rose at its fastest pace in nearly a decade, according to a new International Energy Agency report.

Driving the news: Natural gas accounted for 45% of all energy consumption growth in 2018. Most regions and many industries, including the shipping sector, as shown in the above chart, are turning to the fuel as a cleaner-burning, cheap alternative to coal and oil.

The big picture: Development of new gas resources, led by America, has ushered in what the IEA predicated in 2011 would be a “golden age of gas.” This is reshaping geopolitics and complicating efforts to address climate change. While the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, natural gas still emits greenhouse gas emissions compared to sources like renewables or nuclear power.

The intrigue: One stark example of how environmental concerns overlap with natural gas is the shipping industry’s anticipated shift to liquefied natural gas (LNG) over fuel oil.

  • The IEA projects a tenfold increase in LNG as shipping fuel by 2024, with container and cruise ships accounting for most of that.
  • This shift is being chiefly driven by tougher environmental rules on the maritime industry that a U.N. agency will begin implementing in January 2020.

One level deeper: Much of the debate around natural gas focuses on electricity, such as its role in displacing coal and competing with (and sometimes complementing) variable renewable energy. But it's industrial uses for natural gas, such as chemicals and fertilizers, that are the biggest drivers of growth in most areas of the world, per the IEA report. These uses can’t be as easily replaced with renewables like electricity can.

What’s next: IEA sees more demand growth ahead, but not as fast as last year’s. It projects worldwide demand will rise more than 10% over the next 5 years, with China alone expected to account for 40% of the increase.

Go deeper: Energy pioneer tries to surf the natural gas wave

Go deeper

GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde defends comparison of Jan. 6 riot to "tourists"

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) departs a press conference on June 14. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) defended comments made during a House committee hearing in which he compared the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot to a "normal visit."

The big picture: In a heated back-and-forth during a Rules Committee meeting on Tuesday, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who sits on the select committee investigating the attack, pressed Clyde on whether he had watched the officers' testimony earlier in the day.

49 mins ago - Health

England lifts quarantine requirement for vaccinated EU, U.S. citizens

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Biden at the G7 in Cornwall last month. Photo: Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Fully vaccinated travelers from the European Union and the U.S. will no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England, effective Aug. 2 at 4 a.m. local time, the U.K. government announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of the British government's confidence in its highly successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout, despite the spread of the Delta variant. The move stands in stark contrast to the Biden administration's continued refusal to lift restrictions for travelers from the U.K. and Europe.

3 hours ago - Sports

Simone Biles is still a winner

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Simone Biles' leadership on the mat has never been questioned. After her shocking withdrawal from Tuesday's team final, she proved just as capable a leader off of it.

What happened: During the first rotation, Biles performed an uncharacteristically bad vault, appearing to lose herself in midair.