But now, the United States has unprecedented potential to change the energy equation in Europe. This nation recently surpassed Russia as the top natural-gas producer on the planet, and though American exports of natural gas would begin in 2015 at the very earliest, they have the potential to cut Russia’s exports by 25 percent, according to some estimates. Sending American natural gas abroad would help weaken the energy hold Putin has on Ukraine, and on Europe as a whole.
Contrary to what radical green activists claim, hastening the export of American natural gas would also contribute to a better environment worldwide. Already, in 2012, the United States saw its lowest energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions in two decades — which the Energy Information Administration attributed in large part to the replacement of dirtier coal-energy sources with natural gas.
In fact, natural gas is far cleaner than any of the other traditional energy sources. ExxonMobil predicts it will overtake coal to become the second most common energy source in the world internationally, and because natural gas produces half the emissions that coal does, this development could well result in cleaner air worldwide. The United States can expedite these benefits by opening its natural-gas supplies up to international markets.
Moreover, selling American liquefied natural gas abroad will also strengthen the economy here at home, reducing the trade deficit (which, in December, was almost $39 billion) and bringing the U.S. closer to President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015.
A 2012 study from the Department of Energy and NERA Economic Consulting found that across all market scenarios examined, “the U.S. was projected to gain net economic benefits from allowing [liquefied natural gas] exports. . . . In particular, scenarios with unlimited exports always had higher net economic benefits than corresponding cases with limited exports.”
The study found that even if exports caused increases in natural-gas prices, they were more than offset by other economic gains. “The net result is an increase in U.S. households’ real income and welfare,” the report concluded. The American Petroleum Institute has estimated that by 2035, liquefied-natural-gas exports could add $115 billion to the gross domestic product and result in a net gain of 665,000 jobs.
Environmental groups’ opposition to natural-gas exports is founded not in facts but instead in a knee-jerk aversion to any traditional energy source. Nevertheless, their groundless activism is dangerous, potentially affecting at least three key policy fields. If they succeed at obstructing natural-gas exports as they have thus far succeeded in obstructing Keystone XL, it will impede America’s ability to achieve its foreign-policy, environmental, and economic goals.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.