Natural gas advocates denounced the Obama administration's newly proposed power plant emissions guidelines for "perpetuating the false choice between renewables and natural gas."
"We don't have to slow the trend toward gas in order to effectively and economically use renewables," Marty Durbin, president and CEO of industry group America's Natural Gas Alliance, said in a statement.
The White House on Monday announced changes to the president's 2014 plan to cut emissions from power plants by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels within the next 15 years. The new, stricter standards would require a 32 percent nationwide cut, although states will face widely varying emissions targets under the proposed rules.
The requirements — should they survive an inevitable court challenge from opponents — would hamper the nation's already embattled coal industry, but they would also aim to maintain the current percentage of energy derived from natural gas.
Natural gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal, but the White House plan would instead provide incentives aimed at increasing the share of energy generated by renewable sources from 22 percent to 28 percent.
The gas industry, which boomed in recent years due to the increase in fracking activity in the U.S., countered that natural gas is the most cost-effective option for most states to replace coal and would be needed when sunlight or winds don't provide a sufficient power supply.
"The White House is ignoring market realities and discounting the ability of natural gas to achieve the objective of emissions reductions more quickly and reliably while powering growth and helping consumers," Durbin said.
Experts told the U.K.'s The Guardian, meanwhile, that the incentives could provide a boost for the U.S. renewable industry, which is facing the end of tax credits amid opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress.
“If this does provide a short-run boost for renewables in 2017, 18 and 19, that’s very good news for the industry because right now they are not looking like great years for the sector,” Bloomberg analyst Ethan Zindler told the paper.
"We can build a more diverse, reliable, cleaner energy mix for America, while creating jobs and keeping money in consumers’ pockets," said American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan.
“States want clean, reliable and affordable energy and in today’s market, that is solar," added Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch.