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Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Neurath lignite-fired power plant in Grevenbroich, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Photo: Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

Existing natural gas capacity could replace up to half of the European Union’s coal-fired electricity, according to a forthcoming International Energy Agency study described to Axios.

Why it matters: While still a fossil fuel and thus controversial, natural gas emits 50% less carbon than coal. So in cases where gas is displacing coal, overall CO2 emissions go down.

By the numbers: In the analysis expected to be released in July, IEA analysts found that with gas, coal and CO2 prices hovering about where they are right now — 15-20 Euros per megawatt-hour for gas, 6-10 for coal and 20-25 per ton of CO2 — existing natural gas capacity could replace up to half of existing coal electricity.

Where it stands: Environmentalists and some politicians are increasingly opposed to natural gas because they worry it's locking in far too much global warming. Looking purely at the math and science of climate change, they're right. But in this case, it’d be existing — not new — natural gas infrastructure stepping in.

One level deeper: In a new report out last week, the IEA sees little growth for natural gas in Europe over the next five years (and probably more) due to competition from renewable energy. In the meantime though, leaders there say the fuel could provide backup for variable wind and solar.

What they’re saying: “Gas of course has a much lower carbon content than any other fossil fuel. Therefore, we think gas is very important as an intermediate balancing fuel,” Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission vice president, said in an interview in May.

Go deeper: Natural gas is helping combat climate change — but not enough

Go deeper

Updated 33 mins ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.