Among the more notable aspects of the recent Economic Report of the President is the enthusiasm it expressed for natural gas – particularly liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
The report, unveiled by the White House last week and put together by the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, detailed how rising oil and natural gas production from the nation’s shale regions has boosted U.S. employment growth during tough economic times. The report highlighted the environmental benefits of shale energy growth, too, explaining how natural gas from shale has played a critical role in reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.
In the public interest
Rising natural gas production “has created widespread benefits and opportunities for the U.S. economy,” according to the Council. “On balance, the energy revolution lays the foundation for U.S. leadership in global efforts to address climate change and paves the way toward a low-carbon energy future.”
That won’t happen without taking advantage of natural gas export opportunities. Among the specific benefits exports would generate, according to the report, are:
- Increased U.S. GDP
- Job creation
- Heightened U.S. geopolitical influence
- Promotion of cleaner energy abroad
- Maintaining the competitive cost advantage for U.S. manufacturers
Of course, the Council notes, the federal government could hold us back from realizing those opportunities.
Washington an “impediment” and a “barrier to trade”
The report specifically notes how the Natural Gas Act of 1938 and subsequent amendments to it – which require that the U.S. Department of Energy give its assent before any would-be natural gas export projects may proceed – amounts to “a government-imposed barrier to trade” and an “impediment … which restricts natural gas exports.”
ExxonMobil and many other companies have firsthand experience running up against that barrier. It’s been more than two years since we submitted an application to export LNG on behalf of the Golden Pass facility on the Gulf Coast. We’re still waiting for action from Washington (as are two dozen other projects trapped in permitting limbo), while the window of opportunity to capitalize on global commercial opportunities is closing.
Congress, by contrast, has been acting. A bill to expedite LNG exports and create a deadline for the DOE approval process has recently passed the House with strong bipartisan support. A similar bill is working its way through the Senate with Democrat and Republican sponsors. Both bills recognize that facilitating LNG exports is not a political issue but simple common sense given the benefits exporting LNG can bring.
In the meantime, Energy Department officials would do well to read the Economic Report of the President. Among its findings is that “an increase in U.S. exports of natural gas, and the resulting price changes, would have a number of mostly beneficial effects on natural gas producers, employment, U.S. geopolitical security, and the environment.”
Like the DOE-commissioned study by NERA Economic Consulting on LNG exports in 2012, the Council of Economic Advisors demonstrates that increased exports would serve the public interest. Let’s hope all of Washington hears this good news about America’s LNG export opportunities.