imgGasIcon Natural Gas

Discourage or encourage drilling and burning natural gas for energy. Natural Gas is a fossil fuel that is used for electricity, heating, and industry. When burned, it releases carbon dioxide (although less than coal and oil) and, if leaked into the air, it contains high amounts of methane. Natural gas drilling uses large amounts of water and can cause contamination.


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

Slider Settings

very highly taxed highly taxed taxed status quo subsidized
Change in price per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) +$6.00 to +$4.00 +$4.00 to +$2.00 +$2.00 to +$0.60 +$0.60 to -$0.60 -$0.60 to -$2.00
Cost increase or decrease +100% to +60% +60% to +30% +30% to +10% +10% to -10% -10% to -30%

Key Dynamics

  • If gas is subsidized, coal) goes down in the “Sources of Primary Energy” graph.
  • The transition from a fuel of a higher carbon density to a lower carbon density avoids some emissions, but there is also slightly less renewable and nuclear energy use as well.
  • Natural gas still releases carbon emissions, so if natural gas infrastructure is built it will lock-in emissions until that infrastructure is shut down.

Big Message

  • More natural gas is not an effective long-term strategy for the climate – it is not an effective bridge to a low carbon world.

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).

Potential Co-Benefits of Discouraging

  • 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.
  • There are concerns about the health and environmental impacts of the gas drilling approach know as fracking that have led many places to ban it.

Equity Considerations

  • Generally speaking, natural gas production in developed countries is disproportionately located near low-income and minority communities.
  • 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.
  • 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.