Supporters of increasing exports of liquefied natural gas are making a final push to sell the benefits of sending the fuel abroad as midterm elections draw closer.
“The U.S. is now blessed with a surplus of natural gas and crude oil. We can grow our economy,” Margo Thorning, chief economist with the American Council for Capital Formation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “and help us diplomatically to win friends.”
ACCF put out a new study dispelling the “myths” espoused by opponents of natural gas exports, namely that they would be bad for the environment and exacerbate global warming. But Thorning told TheDCNF these fears are unfounded. In fact, gas exports would be beneficial for the environment, she said.
“If you look at the international situation, if we could export to countries we don’t have a free trade agreement with we would help lower emissions,” said Thorning. “Industry is also able to capture more methane and [claims of] groundwater contamination [from fracking] are unfounded.”
Environmentalists have largely opposed natural gas exports on ground they will increase hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations in the U.S. which will in turn increase rogue methane emissions from drilling sites.
But there has so far been no evidence linking fracking to groundwater contamination, a major concern for activists. Also, methane leaks are a shrinking problem for the industry as companies continue to capture more methane released from drilling sites.
A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration study on liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports found they “result in higher total primary energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States.” EIA said that emissions could change anywhere from -0.1 percent to 0.6 percent which reflects the “increased use of natural gas to fuel added liquefaction and fuel switching in the electric power sector that for some cases increases both fuel use and emissions intensity.”
But while emissions may increase slightly in the U.S., global emissions will likely fall as U.S. gas becomes a substitute for coal in places like China — which is looking to cut down on air pollution in major urban areas.
“LNG is used as a substitute for coal-fired generation in the countries we send them to,” Thorning said.
But one of the most important aspects of LNG exports is their potential to change the geopolitical landscape by, for example, curbing Russia’s influence over Europe. The European Union relies heavily on Russia for its energy and has been hesitant to impose sanctions on them for their invasion of Ukraine.
“If [Europe] knew that in the next two or three years we could ship gas over, it would give them confidence in dealing with Russia. they are eager to diversify their source of supply,” Thorning told TheDCNF. “We could export to China and countries.”
Thorning also rebutted claims that gas exports would harm green energy production. Environmentalists often argue that cheap gas (or even oil and coal) will hurt the competitiveness of green energy sources, which are heavily subsidized.
“I don’t think so because 30 states have renewable portfolio standards,” Thorning said. “To the extent that EPA regulations are impacting the type of energy being used, we’re going to see renewable energy use grow.”
“I don’t think we’re going to see much investment in coal,” Thorning added.
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