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NAM to Senate: LNG Pause Harms Allies, Security

A senior Department of Energy official told the Senate at a Thursday hearing that the Biden administration’s recent decision to pause liquefied natural gas export permits will neither affect supplies to U.S. allies nor jeopardize international energy security, Reuters reports.

  • Yet, data supplied by the NAM to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ahead of the hearing shows otherwise.

What’s going on: “‘It will not affect our ability to supply our allies,’ [U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary David] Turk said, adding that it does not affect already approved exports.”

  • “A U.S. official earlier on Thursday told Reuters ‘I don’t think we’re concerned at all about our ability to meet (European) demand.’”
  • The Senate hearing on the LNG permit export pause follows a House hearing on the same topic earlier in the week.

However … Since the 2022 start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Europe has come to rely increasingly on the U.S.—the world’s top LNG exporter—for natural gas, the NAM told lawmakers.

  • “Europe is currently the primary destination for U.S. LNG, accounting for 67% of total exports in the first six months of 2023,” NAM Managing Vice President of Policy Chris Netram said. “For comparison, 64% of the United States’ global LNG exports in 2022, and 23% of American exports in 2021, went to the European Union. … [T]he war in Europe [even] forced diversions of LNG cargo that was bound for Asia.”

“Wrong direction”: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who called the hearing, said freezing liquefied natural gas export permits is “the wrong direction for our country,” whose LNG exports are helping allies in need.

  • “Shockingly, in the White House statements [regarding the permit freeze], there is no reference at all to the crisis created by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, to the growing instability in the oil-and-gas-producing regions in the Middle East following Hamas’ attack on Israel or to any other crisis that U.S. LNG exports can help address.”

Environmental concerns: Though “Turk said the review will also consider pollution impacts on people living near LNG facilities … [and] ‘take into account all of the health environmental impacts,’” CNBC reports, the permit freeze could “benefit producers of energy sources with significantly higher emissions than [U.S.] LNG,” Netram continued.

  • “According to the DOE, Russian exports to Europe had 40% more global warming potential than U.S. LNG across 20 years. Russian gas also had 20% more global warming potential than European coal. Clearly, U.S. LNG exports are better for the environment and help the U.S. and our allies achieve our climate goals.”

What’s next: The moratorium “could face court challenges,” according to CNBC. “A group of 23 Republican state attorneys general in a letter sent to the administration on Tuesday [said] that the Biden administration’s pause is illegal, arguing that the natural gas law requires the DOE to approve LNG exports unless it shows that doing so would not be in the public interest.” 

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