En-ROADS User Guide

Natural Gas🔗

Discourage or encourage drilling and burning natural gas for energy. Natural Gas is a fossil fuel fossil fuels: Coal, oil, and natural gas. Fuel derived from the remains of ancient plants and animals. that is used for electricity, heating, and industry. When burned, it releases carbon dioxide CO2: Carbon dioxide. A greenhouse gas that can be naturally made by living things and used by plants for photosynthesis or produced by burning fuel (gas, wood, coal, oil, etc.). (although less than coal and oil) and, if leaked into the air, it contains high amounts of methane CH4: Methane. A greenhouse gas. Methane is released from sources like cows, agriculture, natural gas drilling, and waste.. Natural gas drilling uses large amounts of water and can cause contamination. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) can capture some emissions from gas, but is not yet used widely and faces barriers to deployment.


Discouraging natural gas:

  • Governments implementing taxes on natural gas and laws against fracking.
  • Financial services industry (e.g., banks) or global development institutions (e.g., World Bank) limiting access to capital.

Big Messages🔗

  • More natural gas is not an effective long-term strategy for the climate—it is less carbon intensive than coal, but it still emits carbon dioxide.

  • Gas infrastructure has a long lifetime and it competes with the adoption of lower-carbon alternatives such as renewables as they scale up.

Key Dynamics🔗

  • “Squeezing the Balloon.” If natural gas is taxed, in absence of other policies, primary energy demand for gas decreases, but carbon-intensive coal demand increases slightly. We call this the “squeezing the balloon” problem—reducing fossil fuel emissions in one area causes them to pop up in another. Adding a carbon price is a good solution to the “squeezing the balloon” problem, as it addresses all fossil fuels together.

  • Methane leakage. When gas is discouraged, by taxing it, watch the blue line of the Current Scenario go down in the “Methane Emissions” graph. Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane from gas leaks to the atmosphere from wells, pipelines, and other gas infrastructure. Taxing natural gas decreases the leakage by incentivizing the fixing of leaks and discouraging the use of gas. Methane leakage can also be reduced by adopting best practices such as repairing pipelines, simulated with the Waste and Leakage slider.

  • Price-Demand Feedback. Taxing gas also reduces energy demand (see graphs “Final Energy Consumption” and “Cost of Energy”). When energy prices are higher, people tend to use energy more efficiently and conserve energy. However, tax policies must be implemented with considerations for poor and working-class communities who can be negatively impacted by high energy prices. Learn more.

Potential Co-Benefits of Discouraging Natural Gas🔗

  • Gas drilling is water intensive, so limiting extraction can improve water security and quality at the source of production and protect wildlife habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.1 2
  • There are concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the gas drilling approach, known as fracking, that have led many places to ban it.3 4

Equity Considerations🔗

  • Generally speaking, natural gas production in developed countries is disproportionately located near low-income and minority communities.5 6
  • There have been cases where wealthy white communities have successfully resisted natural gas development and it has shifted to low-income communities predominantly inhabited by people of color. Low-income communities often have less ability to influence development.7 8
  • Limited data on the placements of fracking and power plant sites in developing countries exists, yet macro-level research shows that low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately experience the negative impacts of natural gas drilling and burning.9


Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas

Slider Settings🔗

The Natural Gas slider is divided into 5 input levels: very highly taxed, highly taxed, taxed, status quo, and subsidized. Each of the energy supply sliders (Coal, Oil, Natural Gas, Bioenergy, Nuclear, and Renewables) is set to reflect a similar percentage cost increase or decrease for each input level. The following table displays the numerical ranges for each input level of the Natural Gas slider:

very highly taxed highly taxed taxed status quo subsidized
Change in price per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) +$5.00 to +$1.40 +$1.40 to +$0.70 +$0.70 to +$0.20 +$0.20 to -$0.20 -$0.20 to -$0.70
Cost increase or decrease +200% to +60% +60% to +30% +30% to +10% +10% to -10% -10% to -30%

The natural gas industry is currently heavily subsidized. These subsidies are included in the “status quo” setting for the price of natural gas in En-ROADS. If you want to simulate the removal of these subsidies, move the slider to “taxed.” For more information, see this FAQ: How do I simulate reducing coal, oil, and natural gas subsidies?

Model Structure🔗

The cost of natural gas affects three significant decisions regarding energy infrastructure:

  1. Investment in new capacity (whether or not to build new processing and power plants)
  2. Use of capacity (whether to run existing plants)
  3. Retirement of capacity (whether to keep plants longer or shorter than the average of ~30 years)


Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.


[1]: Bamberger, M., & Oswald, R. E. (2012). Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health. NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, 22(1), 51–77.

[2]: Ridlington, E., & Rumpler, J. (2013). Fracking by the Numbers: Key Impacts of Dirty Drilling at the State and National Level. Environment America.

[3]: Good, K. (2015, February 12). These 4 Countries Have Banned Fracking ... Why Can't the U.S. Get On Board?

[4]: Carpenter, D. O. (2016). Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas: impact on health and environment. Reviews on Environmental Health, 31(1).

[5]: Clough, E. (2018). Environmental justice and fracking: A review. Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health, 3, 14–18.

[6]: Bienkowski, B. (2016, February 17). Fracking's Costs Fall Disproportionately on the Poor and Minorities in South Texas. Inside Climate News.

[7]: Jula, M. (2018, April 17). Parents didn't want fracking near their school. So the oil company chose a poorer school, instead. Mother Jones.

[8]: Gislason, M., & Andersen, H. (2016). The Interacting Axes of Environmental, Health, and Social Justice Cumulative Impacts: A Case Study of the Blueberry River First Nations. Healthcare, 4(4), 78.

[9]: Perera, F. (2017). Pollution from Fossil-Fuel Combustion is the Leading Environmental Threat to Global Pediatric Health and Equity: Solutions Exist. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), 16.

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