Liquid Natural Gas – Good For Ecology and Economy

LNG tankWhat American product could . . .

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

Rockin' On the Right Side

CLASSICAL GAS

My vote for the world’s greatest guitar player is Tommy Emmanual of Australia.  Watch this great video of him playing the timeless Mason Williams hit “Classical Gas”.

Here’s the video:

LNG – It’s a Gas, Gas, Gas!

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?)lng_ships_4

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

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