Administration Is a Runaway Bride When it Comes to Energy Exports
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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has suddenly developed a case of cold feet when it comes to one company’s plans to export natural gas.
In May, DOE approved the first new export permit in years, allowing Cheniere Energy to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the company's Sabine Pass LNG terminal in Southwest Louisiana.
But DOE recently announced that it needs more time to consider a Sierra Club complaint against Cheniere’s plans. The environmental group charges that a more stringent environmental impact assessment needs to be done.
Supporters hope this doesn't mean the agency has pushed the pause-on-progress button. The DOE announcement comes just days after the U.S. Chamber’s John Murphy held up the Cheniere permit as a positive example of the U.S. government coming around on the reality of the U.S. energy abundance.
At an October 16 event co-hosted by The Global Business Dialogue, Murphy noted: "The North American natural gas boom presents policymakers with novel and unforeseen questions. Happily, the answers aren’t too hard to find. The benefits of LNG exports are obvious — from economic growth and jobs to strengthened alliances."
In fact, Energy Secretary Steven Chu touted all the U.S. jobs that the project— a retrofit of an existing and languishing LNG import terminal—would create in the original May 2011 announcement:
“The U.S. Department of Energy today issued a conditional authorization approving an application to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal in Louisiana, paving the way for thousands of new construction and domestic natural gas production jobs in Louisiana, Texas, and several other states.
"Our long term economic strength depends on safely and responsibly harnessing America's domestic energy resources while developing new and innovative clean energy technologies," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This project reflects a broad, 'all of the above' approach that will put Americans to work producing the energy the world needs."
While DOE’s foot-dragging isn’t necessarily a stay on the project, it’s still pretty disheartening. Especially considering that at least 15 other permits are still awaiting approval.
Meanwhile, other countries and companies are not standing idle. For instance, TransCanada Corp. plans to build and operate a $4 billion natural-gas pipeline connecting one of North America’s richest gas basins to a Canadian export terminal planned by Royal Dutch Shell PLC and several Asian partners. The Wall Street Journal reports that this “pipeline is the latest project stemming from a $12 billion plan by Shell to send North American gas to eager Asian markets.”
John Murphy put it best earlier this week: “As Mae West said, ‘I like restraint, if it doesn’t go too far.’ In this case, America should follow her advice, categorically reject export restraints, and seize the benefits of being an energy exporter.”