January 2024

The last barrel

More of the same
Craig Fleming / World Oil

Since day one, the Biden Administration has set the U.S. on a path toward more reliance on foreign energy from countries with lower environmental standards. Caving to green activists, President Biden launched an overly aggressive environmental campaign, designed to phase out the U.S. hydrocarbon industry and the immense value it provides our country in terms of energy independence and employment opportunities.  

On his first day in office, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and rejoined the Paris Agreement. The move to block the $9 billion project was a clear signal that constructing a new pipeline in the U.S. had become a nearly impossible task. Now, after three years of failed energy policy, Biden’s drive to diminish U.S. hydrocarbon production has not subsided, despite the glaring failure of renewables to satisfy rising energy demand or deliver a satisfactory return on investment. 

New LNG projects targeted. Environmental groups are pushing for the Biden Administration to stop approving new LNG export projects entirely. The administration is reviewing the criteria that it uses to approve new liquefied natural gas export projects, a move that could significantly slow the fast-growing industry that has made the U.S. the world’s biggest shipper of the clean-burning fuel. 

The review into the process to determine whether a new project serves the national interest comes as Biden faces growing pressure from environmental groups to live up to his pledge, and the international climate agreement struck in Dubai at the COP28 summit, to transition away from fossil fuels. U.S. natural gas exports have increased four-fold in the past decade and become a sharp point of contention between climate activists, who say a surging industry will contribute to new carbon emissions.  

Although international buyers are eager to purchase U.S. LNG, environmental groups and Democrats have pushed Biden to reject further export licenses amid climate concerns. The construction of new multi-billion-dollar LNG export terminals and associated infrastructure will lock in decades of additional natural gas usage and discourage emission-free alternatives, they argue. However, national security experts stress that the cargoes are playing a critical role in replacing Russian gas deliveries to Europe. In the meantime, the drive to change how export licenses are approved could effectively stall permitting, as administration officials have warned industry representatives of protracted delays for approvals to broadly export LNG.  

Fig. 1. Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley.

Push-back. The Energy Workforce & Technology Council had a strong response to the Biden Administration’s review of criteria used to approve new LNG export projects. Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley said, “any potential move by the administration to create new hurdles to permitting LNG projects is counterproductive and could send the industry into disarray, Fig. 1. The last thing that natural gas needs is more regulatory uncertainty. Already, the industry is forced to play a “will they, won’t they” game with stalled permitting reform. This proposal only exacerbates the problem by stalling new projects and halting an industry that is fueling not only our homes this winter but also those of our friends and allies abroad.”  

The U.S. natural gas industry produces gas more efficiently and with lower emissions than anywhere else in the world, and it is in need of additional investment to keep up with projected demand. Converting coal-fired power generation in the U.S. to natural gas has resulted in the country lowering its carbon emissions more than nearly any other country in the world since 2005. These actions from the Administration only discourage investors, who are drawn off by regulatory uncertainty.    

Natural gas is green! From an international perspective, Europe has already determined that natural gas is a “green” form of energy, so why wouldn’t the U.S. follow suit? We are economically handicapping ourselves to increase red tape on a resource that the world wants and desperately needs. Uncertainty created by this statement will encourage our allies to look for LNG from the Middle East, Australia and South America, who will be more than happy to fill the void we leave.  Furthermore, this uncertainty threatens our national security and that of our allies. With Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and increasing instability in the Middle East, our allies are in dire need of a reliable and dependable source of energy, Tarpley concluded.    

Fig. 2. API CEO Mike Sommers.

American Petroleum Institute weighs in. Reviews of applications to broadly export LNG have increased to more than 330 days under the Biden Administration, up from 49 days under President Donald Trump and 155 days under President Barack Obama. API CEO Mike Sommers said “the signal this sends to our allies is very concerning, Fig. 2. Is the U.S. going to be a source of LNG and a reliable partner into the future? Our allies are going to start asking that question if they make this determination.” 

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) called any bid to curtail U.S. LNG exports “shortsighted,” since it would discourage a shift away from coal-fired power to natural gas. “If we limit the export of natural gas, we limit the ability to substitute cleaner burning natural gas for coal,” he said at a recent API event in Washington. 

Battle over new LNG facility. Environmentalist Bill McKibben, who earlier pushed to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline, has taken up a campaign against LNG exports. He and other climate activists are planning a three-day demonstration at the Department of Energy in February. “So far, the DOE has refused to listen to thousands of letters and ignored petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of people. We need to go to D.C. to drive home how serious this crisis is,” a letter from the activists reads. It specifically calls out a proposed plant by Venture Global LNG in Louisiana that’s awaiting approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

Venture Global says its proposed project, like other U.S. plants, will be key to the world’s push to move away from dirtier fuel sources, like coal. According to Venture Global V.P. Shaylyn Hynes, “American LNG is the best weapon in our arsenal to quickly displace global coal use and combat climate change. NGOs and their paid activists have continually misled the public, making up their own facts to fit their agenda, when the data shows otherwise.”  

Fig. 3. Former Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL).

Finally, a common-sense approach. Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future released a video of former Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) who asserts that America’s energy policy must be bipartisan, Fig. 3. The alliance said that natural gas is a vital partner in supporting communities, particularly those that have been historically left behind, creating job and investment opportunities that will allow Americans to compete on a global stage.    

According to Meek, “natural gas is going to make America strong in blue and red states. When it comes down to the bottom line economically in this country—it has to be a bipartisan issue. You can't have the Democrats on one side and Republicans on another. When it comes down to expanding natural gas—it will provide greater economic opportunities for individual families, for businesses and communities. It's going to take leadership to speak up on behalf of those communities that have been left behind. In this whole debate on energy, affordability, opportunity—you can’t keep doing the same thing, expecting different results. That's the reason why it's important that natural gas is a part of many solutions of getting us to a stronger economic standing,” Meek concluded.  

About the Authors
Craig Fleming
World Oil
Craig Fleming Craig.Fleming@WorldOil.com
Related Articles FROM THE ARCHIVE
Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.