- Create hundreds of thousands (some say millions) of USA jobs
- Reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the quality of the environment
- Provide domestic energy independence and help us support our allies
- Improve our negative balance of trade, especially with China
The answer: Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
The USA holds the potential to be the world’s energy leader. The shale-oil boom that resulted from new fracking (hydraulic fracturing) technology has created a very happy unforeseen consequence: a seemingly endless supply of natural gas, perhaps the cleanest, safest and most efficient energy source available.
When cooled to a temperature of -260 degrees Fahrenheit, natural gas becomes liquefied, and its volume shrinks by 600 times. Traditionally, natural gas has been transported by pipelines. The new LNG technology makes the shipment of natural gas practical and affordable, even overseas to energy-starved regions. The efficacy of LNG for the production of electricity and automotive transportation applications is breathtaking.
It’s great news, and not only for the US economy. Many nations, including Japan and China (the world’s largest energy importer), are in dire need of affordable and reliable sources of energy. We have what they need. So what prevents the USA from moving ahead and taking advantage of this narrowing window of opportunity?
Sadly, it is politics. Not exactly partisan politics, but politics nonetheless.
Environmental activists like the Sierra Club oppose the extraction of virtually any fossil fuel, including natural gas. They claim that increased demand for natural gas would encourage fracking, a practice they abhor. They label anyone who defends the remarkable environmental accomplishments of the United States (in sharp contrast to China and other Asian nations) a “science denier.” Yet it is these same environmentalists who fight the development of clean-burning natural gas and its export to the world’s worst polluters.
The Obama administration has done a balancing act in recent years, at times offering support for increased exports of LNG, and at other times acquiescing to pressure from its liberal base.
A lingering question about the benefit of exporting liquefied natural gas is the contention by some, including big players Alcoa and Dow Chemical, that domestic natural gas prices would increase if exports increased. Numerous studies say it’s not true, and lately the Obama administration and the DOE seem to agree.
As I reported back in January of 2013, advocates of the export of LNG have been pressing the federal government to remove the roadblocks and get after it, before Russia and others beat us to the market. Both the Dept. of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have imposed delays on the approval of LNG exports, invoking restrictions attributed to “impacts on health and the environment” and “economic, security, and domestic supply considerations”. Cynics say well-funded lobbyists are in control.
In January the US House passed, on mostly partisan Republican support, a bill to speed up the approval process for LNG exports. A similar bill was passed last year. The likelihood of getting such legislation through the Senate and signed by the president seems slim.
If there is one issue that should have bipartisan support, it is the need for a new American energy policy. The benefits of energy development, especially LNG, to our economy, employment, the environment, and national security are unassailable, the Sierra Club notwithstanding. Pandering news reports and crocodile tears about climate change and science denial are nothing more than transparent demagoguery in the face of such an opportunity to really improve the economy and the environment simultaneously.
When “Earth Day” is celebrated later this month, I hope somebody brings up the subject of LNG – a game-changing technology whose time has come.
This post, and many more outstanding current and topical articles can be seen in its entirety at Watchdog Arena.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side
Here’s the video: