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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

41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

McConnell drops filibuster demand, paving way for power-sharing deal

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (R) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attend a joint session of Congress. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has abandoned his demand that Democrats state, in writing, that they would not abandon the legislative filibuster.

Between the lines: McConnell was never going to agree to a 50-50 power sharing deal without putting up a fight over keeping the 60-vote threshold. But the minority leader ultimately caved after it became clear that delaying the organizing resolution was no longer feasible.

2 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Google won't donate to members of Congress who voted against election results

Sen. Ted Cruz led the group of Republicans who opposed certifying the results. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Google will not make contributions from its political action committee this cycle to any member of Congress who voted against certifying the results of the presidential election, following the deadly Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Several major businesses paused or pulled political donations following the events of Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters, riled up by former President Trump, stormed the Capitol on the day it was to certify the election results.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Minority Mitch still setting Senate agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chuck Schumer may be majority leader, yet in many ways, Mitch McConnell is still running the Senate show — and his counterpart is about done with it.

Why it matters: McConnell rolled over Democrats unapologetically, and kept tight control over his fellow Republicans, while in the majority. But he's showing equal skill as minority leader, using political jiujitsu to convert a perceived weakness into strength.