A group of Democratic Senators is urging the U.S. Energy Department to take steps to limit U.S. natural gas exports, the record volume of which leave Americans with higher energy bills this winter.
The call from the ten Senators led by Jack Reed (D-RI) and including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), comes just as the Biden Administration is scrambling to find non-Russian gas supplies to ship to Europe in case the Russia-Ukraine crisis escalates into military action.
The U.S. Administration is in talks with energy companies and major gas-producing countries globally about the potential for a large supply of natural gas to Europe in case Russian deliveries are interrupted.
At the same time, U.S. LNG exports are soaring to record levels and are expected to continue to surge as more export capacity comes online. Thanks to a growing number of U.S. LNG export projects coming into service, by the end of 2022, U.S. nominal capacity will increase to 11.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) and peak capacity to 13.9 Bcf/d across 7 LNG export facilities and 44 liquefaction trains, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in December. That will be more than the respective capacities of Qatar and Australia, the other two major LNG exporters in the world.
“As families across the country continue to face steep residential energy and heating costs, we urge you to take swift action to limit U.S. natural gas exports and examine their impact on domestic energy prices,” the U.S. Senators said in their letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
While the Senators recognize the geopolitical factors in the U.S. efforts to ensure non-Russian gas supply to Europe, they also note that “the Administration must also consider the potential increase in cost to American families because of higher export volumes.”
“Therefore, we urge the Department to conduct a review of LNG exports and their impact on domestic prices and the public interest, and develop a plan to ensure natural gas remains affordable for American households. Until such a plan is completed, the Department should consider halting permit approvals of U.S. LNG export facilities,” the Senators wrote in the letter.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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The unvarnished truth is that the entire LNG exports from the United States, Qatar and Australia could hardly replace the almost 200 billion cubic metres (bcm) piped by Russia to the EU. Moreover, the bulk of Qatari, Australian and American LNG exports is already contracted for in the Asia-Pacific region. To this could also be added that the global LNG market is currently very tight with rising demand in Asia particularly China and that Russian piped gas is far cheaper than LNG.
Currently the United States converts 10% of its gas production into LNG for export. But rising domestic demand for gas along with declining production will cap US LNG production and exports if not reduce them.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London