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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
9 mins ago - Economy & Business

Wall Street still prefers bonds

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Getty Contributor

Investors' return on U.S. corporate bonds has been falling since its August peak, but buying has only accelerated, especially in investment grade bonds that are offering historically low yields.

The state of play: Since hitting its 2020 high on Aug. 4, the benchmark Bloomberg Barclays U.S. bond aggregate has delivered a -2.2% return. (For comparison, the S&P 500 has gained 3.9% during the same time period.)

1 hour ago - World

U.S.-Israeli delegation secretly visits Sudan

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A joint U.S.-Israeli delegation traveled secretly on Wednesday to Sudan for talks on a possible announcement on "ending the state of belligerence" between the countries that could be released in the next few days, sources briefed on the trip told me.

The big picture: President Trump announced earlier this week he is ready to remove Sudan from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list once Sudan pays $335 million in compensation to American terror victims.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

A white-collar crime crackdown

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

America has waited a decade for an aggressive government crackdown on white-collar crime. Now, just before the election, and in the middle of a bull market, it has arrived.

Why it matters: When times are good, investors become more trusting and more greedy. That makes them more likely to put their money into fraudulent or criminal enterprises.

  • After a decade-long bull market, there is no shortage of those frauds to prosecute.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!