American power plants burned more natural gas last month than ever before.
Power generators used an average 23.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas in January 2015, up 13 percent from the 20.5 bcfd average in January 2014, according to Thomson Reuters Analytics.
That was the most gas consumed by the power sector during the month of January on record, according to federal data going back to 1973.
The shale boom has unleashed a torrent of new sources of natural gas, and that abundant supply has depressed prices to the point that its squeezing out other potential power sources. American coal consumption is being hit by this, which is notable for two reasons: first, coal is often thought of as the cheapest fossil fuel around, which makes the fact that natural gas is displacing it all the more impressive. Second, coal is a dirty energy source, in terms of both local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Burning natural gas as opposed to coal can cut those emissions in half.
So this winter, know that not only has the shale boom keep heating bills down across America, but that it’s been a boon for the environment as well.