A natural gas–fueled electricity generating power plant near Hermiston Oregon. Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

February to April of this year was the first three-month period in which the carbon intensity of total U.S. electricity generation fell below that of the U.S. gas-fired power fleet, per the latest available data from the Energy Information Administration.

Why it matters: This phenomenon challenges the conventional wisdom that gas will be the critical — even the primary — tool for decarbonizing the U.S. going forward. Although gas has played a prominent role in driving down U.S. emissions over the past decade, driving a switch from coal in many markets, it is likely that the more than $100 billion in planned new gas capacity will face increasing uncertainty, particularly in states with policies that mandate new generation to contribute to grid emissions reductions.

The other side: To be sure, gas still has a role to play, not only in replacing remaining coal generation, but also in supporting the intermittency of renewables — a growing challenge as the penetration of solar and wind increases.

Nevertheless, there are early signs of price-competitive solar-plus-storage or wind-plus-storage projects, such as in a recent Colorado auction, that would turn gas into renewables’ competitor, rather than complement, to play the role of base-load power.

What's next: These dynamics will make it only more important for U.S. gas production to have an export valve, so that it can be sent to international markets — such as China and India — where it still has a huge role to play in reducing emissions and air pollution. The threat of Chinese tariffs on U.S. gas exports will not help: Not only would they shrink one of the largest potential markets, but they would also cloud the outlook for a number prospective gas export facilities awaiting final investment decisions soon.

David Livingston is deputy director for climate and advanced energy at the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center.

Go deeper

Liberty University's Jerry Falwell Jr. agrees to “indefinite leave of absence”

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. in 2019. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jerry Falwell Jr. will take an “indefinite leave of absence” from his roles as president and chancellor of Liberty University after posting a photo of himself with unzipped pants and an arm around a woman on social media, according to the school.

The state of play: The picture, which has since been deleted, drew backlash and charges of hypocrisy from conservative political figures because the university's honor code strictly prohibits students from having "sexual relations outside of a biblically-ordained marriage," and recommends they dress with“appropriateness” and “modesty."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 19,189,737 — Total deaths: 716,669 — Total recoveries — 11,610,192Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 4,917,050 — Total deaths: 160,702 — Total recoveries: 1,598,624 — Total tests: 59,652,675Map.
  3. Politics: White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

White House recommends Trump issue executive orders on coronavirus aid

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (L) and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows speak to the media on Capitol Hill. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said President Trump should sign executive orders unilaterally addressing coronavirus stimulus spending after negotiations with congressional Democrats stalled again on Friday.

Why it matters: Friday was viewed as a self-imposed deadline to negotiate a new relief bill. But after an intense week of negotiations on Capitol Hill, White House and Democratic leadership failed to reach a deal on delivering much needed aid to Americans and businesses.