March 28, 2014

For Once, an Energy Pivot in the Right Direction

Exporting natural gas to Europe could yield geopolitical benefits.

To the surprise of many, the Obama administration seems to be taking a positive look at exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European nations, particularly Ukraine, in an effort to cut Russian influence in the region. “The situation in Ukraine proves the need to reinforce energy security in Europe and we are considering new collaborative efforts to achieve this goal. We welcome the prospect of U.S. LNG exports in the future since additional global supplies will benefit Europe and other strategic partners,” said the administration in a release.

A good first step would be to expedite decisions on exporting LNG to countries with which we do not have a free-trade agreement. So far the Department of Energy has approved just seven such deals, with a backlog of 24 more in the pipeline.

But a much more important step is investment in infrastructure to export LNG, and one such project in Washington’s backyard is under attack from environmentalists. Cove Point, in southern Maryland, was built more than 30 years ago as an import facility, but owner Dominion Resources wants to invest over $3 billion to convert it to an export terminal.

Replicating a strategy that has thus far prevented natural gas extraction in Marcellus Shale states like Maryland and New York, environmentalists want to scuttle the project by studying it to death, asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to do an exhaustive “environmental impact” study. They’re claiming that approving the Cove Point project would produce a negative greenhouse gas impact. “Building a new LNG terminal doesn’t strengthen our nation, and it further disrupts our climate,” sniffled Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Meanwhile, founder Bill McKibben warned Democrats that they won’t escape notice if they back the project because it encourages more “exploitation” of resources. “Fracking’s become a dirty word, for good reason,” McKibben opined.

But the geopolitical benefits of eventually reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas may convince regulators to ignore these radical environmentalists. Ironically, many of these same nations have instituted their own bans on fracking but will be happy to buy our natural gas. Perhaps the environmentalists should just move there and await our energy bailout.

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