Is Natural Gas Renewable? Natural Gas Vs Non Renewable Energy (Fossil Fuel)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | June 6, 2023

Man looking at a natural gas facility wonders what is natural gas renewable energy and what are renewable energy sources, and what is natural gas pros and cons of non renewable energy sources?

Energy is one of the most important components of daily living, and a source gaining more popularity is natural gas, leading to the burning question, is natural gas renewable?

Since the majority of natural gas in the U.S. is derived from hundreds of millions of years of geological pressure, it’s considered a fossil fuel, and as such, the amount of natural gas is limited.

Energy comes in many forms, but is usually classified as either one of two major categories, renewable and nonrenewable energy.

Whereas some are cleaner and have less impact on the environment, others are, unfortunately, more catastrophic. Each and every person relies on energy directly or indirectly, and it explains why it is a crucial topic to discuss.

In an effort to shed more light on the environmental impact of various energy sources, this guide explains, is natural gas renewable, and the differences between non renewable energy sources and those that are classified as renewable. 

What Are Renewable Energy Sources?

Renewable energy sources are a term used to describe sustainable energy; in other words, an energy source that you cannot deplete.

There is virtually no way for you to use up the energy from the sun or wind.

On the left is silhouettes of wind turbines on top of a land form and on the right is a closeup of solar panels.

(Image: seagul12)

They are environmentally cleaner alternatives to what people have used for centuries now and have proven to be better for the environment than options like coal and other fossil fuels.

In the interest of eco-conscious people who want to reduce their carbon footprint, the following are renewable energy sources.

  1. Solar Power: When you step outside, what do you first see? The radiant and abundant sun throws its powerful rays onto the earth, but did you know that you can tap into that power and generate electricity?
    It is the perfect and easily available and usable energy form, and all you need are solar panels, batteries, cables, and a few other pieces of equipment.
  2. Wind Energy: You must have seen astonishingly tall turbines turning in the wind and wondered what they are about. These machines in wind farms are vital in harnessing the wind’s power and converting it into electricity, and in so doing, contributing to the grid.4
  3. Hydropower: Imagine water flowing under a controlled path. The shear force is enough to turn turbines that can easily generate electricity. Although the materials needed to create hydropower do generate some emissions, at its basis, a water source is considered renewable.

That is exactly what HEP facilities do; tap into water’s potential.

  1. Geothermal Energy: You probably know that there is heat below the earth’s surface, right below our feet and this can also be used to create power.
  2. Biomass: Besides sun, wind, and water, it is interesting that power can also come from organic matter. Domestic and agricultural waste can produce cleaner and cheaper electricity, better than fossil fuels.

Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources may be a step forward in the right direction to achieving carbon neutrality,6 but as always, there are also downsides.

Low-angle shot of a wind turbine situated on a grassy field with the sun and cloudy sky in the background.

(Image: winterseitler13)

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy:

Pros of renewable energy:

  1. Since renewable energy comes from the environment, it is basically unlimited and can never run out.
  2. The equipment used in harnessing the power is easier to maintain in comparison to fossil fuel generators.
  3. If you have adopted solar power or other sustainable options, you will realize that they are way cheaper in the long run.
  4. In regard to the environment, renewable energy is the best solution. Compared to fossil fuels, it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, meaning that it is the safest bet.
  5. One of the best parts about the expansion of the renewable energy sector is that it has promoted the creation of job opportunities and has so far been able to employ thrice the number of people employed in the fossil fuel sector.

Cons of renewable energy

  1. The main issue with renewable energy is that it, more often than not, needs a high initial cost for the purchase and set up of the machines.
  2. The sun, wind, and tidal waves are not always reliable, sometimes the intensity is too low, and other times non-existent, like the sun at night.
  3. Although renewable energy sources are always present, they are usually limited by geographic location and other obstructions. For instance, urban set-ups are practically impossible for solar and wind farms that need massive land, which rural settings better provides.

Related Reading: Pros and Cons of Solar Energy (& When the Disadvantages Outweigh Benefits)

What Is Natural Gas?

As you now know, there are two energy sources, the renewable, which you cannot deplete, and the nonrenewable which slowly runs out and will deplete at some point in the future.

Nonrenewable energy sources are all fossil fuels, like coal and oil, but the question that lingers in most people’s minds is, is natural gas renewable?

Wide shot of a natural gas power plant situated on a body of water smoke produced white the plant is in operation.

(Image: isakarakus14)

To put it more in perspective, you should understand where it comes from and how it is produced. The origin of natural gas is organic matter.

Interesting right? This is what happens.

When the decayed plant and animal matter gets buried in the earth for millions of years, the lack of oxygen causes a high buildup of pressure and heat, causing the matter to break down and form natural gas.2

It is this gas that is harnessed from the earth’s surface and transformed into electricity. From this explanation, it is easy to see that natural gas is actually a fossil fuel that is composed of compounds like methane.

The gas comes in various types and is located in different places.

Is Natural Gas Renewable?

After knowing what natural gas is, you are now able to answer the question, is natural gas renewable? Generally, for a source to be categorized as renewable, it must be reusable, again and again, without fear that it will ever run out in the future.

Unfortunately, natural gas lacks this most important feature because it is basically a fossil fuel.7 To put it simply, natural gas is nonrenewable energy because it comes from an underground source that is in limited supply.

It is technically a fossil fuel that can easily be depleted the more it is in use.

Which States Produce and Use More Natural Gas?

Texas as you know is the second most massive state in the US, after Alaska and this means that it has one of the highest populations of residents and in turn, records a high rate of electricity usage.

Graphics of top producers and consumers of natural gas showing U.S. map on top and state maps of Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Oklahoma under top producers of natural gas and state maps of Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Florida under top consumers of natural gas.

Its sheer size implies that it also has some staggering numbers when it comes to the usage of natural gas.

It is undoubtedly the highest consumer in the entire country, and the main reason behind this is that it relies on it for around 52% of its electricity needs.

The next in line is Louisiana, which shares the number two spot with California, which is the number 3rd largest state. It may come as a shock because Louisiana is number 31 in the ranking of states by size.

As it turns out, the population and the surface area are not the only determinants of the usage of natural gas.

What sets it apart is the fact that it is on the Gulf Coast, which plays a key role in the creation and distribution of fossil fuels like natural gas. Swiftly coming in at numbers 4 and 5 are Pennsylvania, followed closely by Florida.

One thing to notice is that the highest consumers are probably the highest producers, which applies to states like Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania.

Ohio and Oklahoma are also some of the highest producers but are not particularly the highest consumers.

In an unexpected twist, some states have actually banned the use of natural gas. As you will see later on in this write-up, natural gas has detrimental effects on the environment, and it is understandable that some states don’t want to use it.

The concerns about climate change and its relationship with the obtaining and use of natural gas have led to some legislative changes.

In the interest of their state and residents, cities like New York, Denver, and San Francisco have expressed doubts about the use of natural gas.

They don’t want it used in cooking, heating, or any other purpose, and as you are yet to find out, there is a good reason behind it.

Is Natural Gas Renewable? Types of Natural Gas

The creation and nature of natural gas point out to it as a fossil fuel and by extension, it means that it is a nonrenewable energy source.

Basically, in order to categorize energy into one of the two main groups comes from a sustainability viewpoint. And as you have seen, natural gas from organic matter comes from fossils, making it depletable.


There are three main types of natural gas, namely, Abiogenic Methane, Biogenic Methane,8 and Thermogenic Methane.

  1. Abiogenic Methane: The pressure and heat that produces natural gas can come from plenty of organic matter. In this case, abiogenic comes from the hydrogen-rich carbon deposits that have been present for as far back as the earth’s formation.
  2. Thermogenic Methane: Over millions of years, soil, mud, and rocks lie on top of animal and plant matter, leading to massive pressure levels, which also means high-temperature buildups and the creation of natural gas.
  3. Biogenic Methane: Methanogens, or microorganisms in decayed matter release methane. This natural gas comes from landfills in animal farms, and fascinatingly, this is the single case of renewable energy from natural gas.
    It is 20% times safer than fossil fuels and is the least likely to deplete.

How Is Natural Gas Used?

There are so many natural gas uses around the country, and it is expected because it is cheap to generate and very efficient.

There may be heated debates all over the globe over the environmental impact of natural gas but the fact still remains that it is a widely used energy source, coming in second after fossil fuels.1

Natural gas made up 33% of the electricity used in the United States in 2020, which makes that the largest usage.

In terms of numbers, the energy sector used an estimated 11.62 trillion cubic feet of gas, which means that 38% of natural gas produced went directly to the production of electricity.

The industries were the biggest consumers of natural gas in 2020, responsible for 10.09 trillion cubic feet.

In perspective, this means that the industries used up 33% of the natural gas produced in the country. This sector uses the energy source for most of its processes, from the manufacture of chemicals to hydrogen.

The third on the list of the highest natural gas users is the residential setup. Boasting almost 4.65 trillion cubic feet, the sector was responsible for 15% of the country’s natural gas usage.

It is not a surprise that many homes have adopted the energy source in their daily operations.

It is widely used for heating and cooling, especially given the drastic temperature and weather changes.

Other sectors that have also contributed to the widespread use of natural gas are businesses and transport sectors, just to name a few.

Is Natural Gas Cleaner? Natural Gas vs. Nonrenewable Energy Sources (Coal And Oil)

To be frank, natural gas is cleaner than fossil fuels like petroleum and coal. However, get this, calling natural gas ‘clean energy’ is a bit of an exaggeration because it doesn’t stand a chance against solar, wind, and HEP.

The only advantage is that it produces less GHG emissions in terms of carbon dioxide and other fumes in comparison to other nonrenewable sources but at the same time, produces the same amount of energy.

Natural gas is 40-50% cleaner than coal.9 This is in regard to the amount of carbon emissions, which means that it is the better choice among other fossil fuels.

Wide shot of a coal fire power station showing large clouds of smoke coming out from it.

(Image: NoName_1315)

By ditching coal and petroleum for gas, carbon emissions were cut by as much as 500 million tons worldwide. Again, putting this in a clearer perspective, that had the same effect on the environment as trading in 200 million cars with electric vehicles.

It becomes an excellent alternative considering the carbon footprint of electric cars vs gasoline. This property makes it one of the go-to options for alternative electricity that help power vehicles and perform other residential and industrial tasks.

Stakeholders laud natural gas for these upsides, but there is more than what meets the eye; natural gas is not 100% safe for use.

The natural gas vs oil debate is always in favor of gas because it has fewer emissions. Although it surpasses petroleum and coal, it is not as clean as nuclear energy and other renewable sources.

In fact, many view it as a way to ‘buy extra time’ to reduce the overreliance on oil and give more time for people to adopt the use of renewable energy.

Is Natural Gas Renewable? What Is Renewable Natural Gas?

Although the focus is more on how natural gas is depletable, there is a ray of hope, all thanks to Biogenic Methane.

A groundbreaking discovery led to the creation of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). In layman’s terms, it refers to biogas used in the creation of natural gas.

Biogas plant showing large storage and facility with the blue sky in the background.

(Image: 181569116)

This energy source comes from landfills, solid waste, digesters, livestock farms, and plenty of other places where there is anaerobic digestion.

The methane from these processes is usually at 45- 65% but turns to at least 95% after treatment and upgrading.5

When all is said and done, the gas produced is transported through the natural gas pipelines which is pretty hard to tell apart from actual natural gas.

In the long run, this renewable energy will be the perfect alternative to fossil fuels and will significantly help reduce carbon emissions and ease off the pressure of fuel insecurity.

What Are the Benefits of Using Renewable Natural Gas?

There are a lot of reasons that support the use of RNG instead of actual natural gas. Take a look.

  1. Fuel diversity: The best part about using RNG is that it gives users plenty of options when it comes to the form of energy they want to use. To make it even better, it makes use of already existing infrastructure because it can be transported using existing pipelines.
  2. Economic and financial benefits: The manufacture and use of renewable natural gas not only improve the nation’s employment rate but is also of great help to the local communities.
  3. Environmental impact: It goes without saying that the adoption of cleaner renewable natural gas significantly reduces GHG emissions,10 of which are great for the air quality.

What Are the Natural Gas Pros and Cons?

Virtually every energy source has a fair share of up and downsides, and natural gas is no different. Take a look at what it means to produce and use natural gas as a substitute for other non-renewable options.

Pros of natural gas:

  1. It is in abundance: The country has a massive reserve of natural gas, and it is more than likely to last the rest of the century. There was a record production of 79 billion cubic feet daily in 2015, and in the same year, has an equal rate of usage as coal.
  2. It is cheaper: All thanks to a high rate of production, natural gas has proven to be cheaper than other renewable energy sources.
  3. It has increased the employment rate of the country: The energy industry is one of the most lucrative sectors to work in, and obviously, the adoption of natural gas means more jobs and a higher employment rate.

Cons of natural gas:

  1. It is a greenhouse gas: Natural gas is basically methane, which is a GHG. The only advantage it has got over carbon dioxide is that it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere
  2. It is nonrenewable: Perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages of natural gas is that it is not renewable, therefore, not sustainable for use in the future.
  3. Fracking has a negative environmental impact: The process of drilling and obtaining natural gas has proven to have devastating consequences on the environment, like the risk of underwater pollution and regional earthquakes.

What Is the Environmental Impact of Natural Gas?

While discussing all the ups and downsides of using natural gas, it is equally important to shift the attention a little to the question, how does natural gas affect the environment?

Being eco-conscious is not only about reducing your carbon footprint and increasing your carbon offsets credits but also checking that the future is secure. And it starts with your energy sources.

The sad news is that the drilling and manufacture of natural gas have some pretty devastating effects. For starters, it means digging around to determine the exact location, which implies that there will be a heavy loss of plant and animal life.

Such processes can be very disruptive, and even after the creation of the drilling well, you can expect a lot of emissions.

Water underground is also at a high risk of contamination. Another impact worth mentioning is that the creation of massive networks of pipelines for the transportation of gas also causes a lot of land disruption, not to talk about the high carbon footprint all through the entire process, from location to manufacture.

What Is the Future of Natural Gas?

The main question here is, why is sustainable use of natural resources important? If you understand global warming and all the radical atmospheric changes caused by human activities,11 you will understand why the choice of clean energy is crucial.

Now that you know all the tiny details about natural gas and what it means for the environment, the next step is determining what the future holds.

Starting to switch from fossil fuels is something that should happen as soon as now, this includes weaning off of natural gas.

It may be a perfect way to ‘buy time’ to avoid faster depletion of other energy forms, but it is not safe for the environment; besides, the levels are not enough to completely sustain the coming generation.

Given that it is not a lasting solution, and will most likely be here to stay, it means that governments should develop better ways to reduce its negative effects on the environment.3

In the meantime, it doesn’t mean that we should stop looking out for other cleaner and safer options. It is high time renewable energy becomes more popular, and more people adopt them because they are the future of energy.

Natural gas comes from the anaerobic reactions of plant and animal matter compressed over millions of years, similar to the formation of fossil fuels.

Just in this regard, it means that the energy source is in the same category as coal and petroleum and you don’t need further explanation to understand that this automatically makes it a nonrenewable energy source.

The only advantage is that in comparison to other fossil fuels, it is cleaner, hence safer for the environment. However, it doesn’t mean that it lacks a fair share of downsides. It is also detrimental to the environment in a couple of ways.

It is not a lasting solution to the current world problems like global warming, and in due time, everyone will gradually begin to adopt cleaner renewable energy. Hopefully, you now have the answer to your concern is natural gas renewable and other details on related information.

Frequently Asked Questions About Is Natural Gas Renewable

Is Natural Gas Renewable?

In accordance with how it is formed and how it is obtained, natural gas is not renewable; it is in limited supply and can deplete just like any other fossil fuel (coal or petroleum). However, RNG or biogenic natural gas is renewable, which is the only exception.

Is Fossil Fuel Renewable or Nonrenewable?

All fossil fuels, whether coal, oil, or gas, are nonrenewable. In comparison to the sun, wind, and water energy sources, these options are depletable, and it is only a matter of time before the reserves run out, forcing people to now opt for renewable energy.


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