As the debate in the U.S. over whether or not to expand exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) unfolds, it is worth underlining the significant benefits abundant U.S. resources will bring to the global energy market. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) natural gas will be a key component of the global energy portfolio for decades to come. Indeed, just this month the American Gas Association, alongside the Potential Gas Committee estimated that the U.S. has reserves of 2,384 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of available natural gas..
From an environmental standpoint, natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. Natural gas has roughly half the carbon emissions of coal when used to generate electricity. IEA data shows that increased natural gas use could reduce CO2 emissions by 740 million metric tons by 2035—more than is currently emitted each year by France, Brazil, the United Kingdom or Canada.
The benefits of natural gas do not simply end with the environment. Study after study has concluded that natural gas exports represent a major opportunity for international trade. Numerous countries, including some of America’s closest allies, are in need of reliable energy supplies. Increased natural gas trade via LNG shipments and pipelines will provide a clean-burning fuel source for consumers while making energy supplies more affordable for importing nations.
Allowing natural gas exports to reach the shores of U.S. trade partners would create a more competitive LNG marketplace, and erode some of the power of those who use energy resources as a geopolitical weapon. Moreover, the U.S. International Trade Administration (ITA) found that each $1 billion of exports could result in more than 5,000 new jobs, many of which would be permanent manufacturing jobs.
In order to further participate in the global LNG market, regulatory hurdles must be met. Importing or exporting natural gas requires authorization from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which makes its determination based upon the public interest. Selling natural gas to countries with which the United States has a free trade agreement (FTA) is automatically deemed to be in the public interest, assuming all applicable environmental standards are met. However, selling to countries outside of existing FTAs must undergo further regulatory review.
Independent experts, Congress, DOE and the general public have engaged in a thorough, public dialogue about the benefits of selling some of our abundant natural gas supply to our trading partners and there is a growing momentum of support across the country to export LNG. The bottom line remains: increased U.S. LNG exports will benefit the environment, countries in need of energy resources, and the U.S. economy. Now is the time for the U.S. government to approve all pending LNG export applications so that the U.S. and global economies can reap the benefits.