You know all about natural gas. It has been a cheap, plentiful, relatively safe energy source in the US for a long time. Recent discoveries of huge natural gas reserves as a result of “fracking” indicate that we will have a more than plentiful North American supply far into the future.
Natural gas is typically delivered by pipelines which pump the product from wells to homes and businesses. If that were the only way to move natural gas, its utility would be limited. No pipeline, no natural gas.
But there’s another way. Natural gas can be liquefied by cooling it to -260°F. With impurities removed and at near atmospheric pressure, liquefied natural gas (LNG) takes up 99.84% less volume, making it easy to transport in tanks to areas without pipelines or a nearby natural gas supply (can you say China?)
And the prospect of powering motor vehicles with LNG at lower costs and emissions than gasoline and diesel makes the world-wide move to LNG more than a temptation – it’s a no-brainer.
The tremendous promise of LNG would seem to put the United States, with our huge natural gas supply and technology advantage, in the global energy ‘catbird seat’. We should be gearing up to export LNG all over the world, getting the jump on Russia, Argentina and other gas-rich nations. Leading LNG companies like Excelerate Energy and Cheniere are chomping at the bit to build plants and start shipping.
So what’s the hold-up?
The Department of Energy is currently studying the national implications of exporting LNG and is taking comments from interested parties. Some US companies, like Dow Chemical and Alcoa, want to hold domestic natural gas prices down by keeping our excess supply within our borders. Their lobbyists, and some US congressmen, including Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), have expressed opposition to allowing LNG exports, claiming that sharing our surplus of natural gas may increase domestic gas prices.
Greg Kozera, president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association, is taking the high road. He concedes that domestic prices may increase slightly, but that will be more than offset by other economic gains. In his letter to the DOE, he says it is the “right thing to do”:
We need the jobs and all of the economic benefits that come with them, not the least of which is tax revenue for the local and state government services we need, chief among them a high quality education. We also need to do the right thing by nations friendly to us that have been held hostage by OPEC. The Russians and OPEC nations with natural gas are already exporting it to Europe and other nations at their prices. We can change the world in a very positive way or we can choose to be selfish.
At a time when all Americans are concerned about our nation’s economic future, it is comforting to know that there are golden opportunities, if we are bold enough to seize them. We must let our congressmen know that we support the export of liquid natural gas, and we should question why Senator Wyden and others continue to fight prosperity.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!
But it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash,
It’s a Gas! Gas! Gas!
Jumpin’ Jack Flash – the Rolling Stones