U.S. liquefied natural gas exports are having wide-ranging global benefits, according to testimony given this week during a Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources hearing.
Key takeaway: The increased use of natural gas, especially in rapidly developing countries, will improve air quality and cut carbon emissions, while providing allies with an alternative, stable source of fuel.
LNG helps lower carbon emissions
Witnesses and senators agreed that the expanded use of natural gas has lowered emissions. Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy, pointed out the impressive cuts to CO2 emissions resulting from natural gas replacing traditional fuel sources in the United States:
“The increased used of natural gas has helped lower energy related carbon emissions to levels not seen since the 1980s.”
In a similar vein, Charlie Riedl, Executive Director at the Center for LNG, noted,
“The promise of more LNG facilities in the United States brings the promise of a new era benefiting the U.S. economy and the environment.”
He added that the Department of Energy conducted a study showing that LNG exports could cut global emissions by replacing more carbon-intensive fuels abroad.
Dennis Arriola, Executive Vice President at Sempra Energy, pointed out that LNG exporting provides the United States the opportunity to help other countries lower their emissions and presents a leadership opportunity:
“The U.S. has an opportunity to lead a global transition to cleaner energy. LNG exports can help countries improve air quality and the environment by displacing less clean resources. More than half the countries in Asia have air quality concerns, so the demand is there for cleaner, more affordable natural gas. The trend in the U.S. and abroad is to phase-out coal-fired power in favor.”
And Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pointed out the broad domestic customer base for natural gas, saying it is “providing a long term, low cost and low emission source of energy for our manufacturers and residential consumers alike.”
Exporting LNG can help our allies and protect us from our adversaries
The United States is producing so much natural gas that it is largely meeting its own energy needs and is able to export increasing quantities abroad. That multiple witnesses emphasized this point is a testament to the magnitude of this shift.
Exporting to China can help the United States cut its trade deficit, argued Arriola, whose company began exporting LNG from its Cameron LNG facility in Louisiana just last month. Riedl agreed, stating in his testimony that LNG exports are “reducing our trade deficit by billions of dollars each year.”
Further, exporting to Europe provides our allies with the opportunity to diversify from Russian natural gas – thereby countering Russia’s power in the region and ensuring it cannot use energy dependency to bully Europe. As Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) explained,
“Energy can be a tool for democracy, but it can also be a weapon.”
Arriola provided an example of how U.S. LNG can prevent Russia from using this weapon, noting that Sempra’s LNG export agreement with Poland undercut Russia’s power in the country.
Policy solutions can deepen benefits
Despite the many benefits the United States has already enjoyed from ramping up its LNG exports, there is room for improvement, especially in infrastructure. In response to pointed questions from Sens. Cory Gardner (R – Colorado), John Hoeven (R – North Dakota) and Mike Lee (R – Utah), Winberg and Riedl explained how infrastructural deficits are preventing the country from fully realizing the benefits of its LNG dominance. Winberg noted:
“We have a lack of infrastructure to get gas from the Marcellus area of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia up into the New York New England markets.”
The United States is in the midst of an epochal shift in energy. If the country is to become the energy leader Riedl alluded to in his testimony and fully harness the benefits of this record-breaking production and exporting that shows no signs of stopping, it must work to address issues that are preventing the country – and the rest of the world – from fully realizing the benefits of its LNG prowess.
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