Cars are also following suit, though the numbers are small. The Washington Post cites Dave Hurst of Pike Research estimating that out of 14.5 million passenger cars and trucks sold in the U.S. in 2012, a little more than 20,000 ran on natural gas. But even more than long-haul trucks, people will need a convenient refueling infrastructure before natural gas-powered cars catch on.
And even trains may be headed down the same track. BNSF Railway announced earlier this year that it is working on a new engine that will run on LNG -- ironically, to transport what it hopes will be a million barrels of oil a day, according to CNBC.
But even as the U.S. makes progress in reducing carbon emissions, global CO2 emissions between 2005 and 2011 increased by 15 percent. The best way to make sure the rest of the world continues reducing carbon emissions is to remove a decades-old restriction on exporting natural gas to other countries without approval from the federal government.
Not everyone is happy about the U.S. CO2 reduction success story, however. Some environmentalists see the increased availability and adoption of natural gas as a failure because it relaxes the economic pressure on government to mandate individuals and companies switch to renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
Nothing creates more public support for renewable energy sources than high fossil fuel prices. Of course, nothing is worse for the economy than high fossil fuel prices, too.
The day may come when we can get most or all of the energy we need from renewable sources, but that day is a long way off even under the best of circumstances.
The public policy goal should be to meet out energy needs while doing as little damage as possible to the environment and the economy. Natural gas is helping us do that. With the right policies coming out of Washington and the states, we could start celebrating the CO2 reduction success story soon.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas.