Bottom Line: The debate over whether the US should become a net gas exporter moved towards the proponents last weekend, following remarks made by US President Barack Obama during a visit to Costa Rica suggesting that there will be wide support for gas export ventures.
Analysis: This debate has pitted the oil and gas industry against giant chemical manufacturers, with the former eyeing lucrative gas export profits and the latter eyeing lower manufacturing costs if that gas stays at home. But increasingly, we are getting hints from the Obama administration that the oil and gas industry is winning this battle. In Costa Rica, Obama said: “I’ve got to make a decision — an executive decision broadly about whether or not we export liquefied natural gas at all. But I can assure you that once I make that decision, then factoring in how we can use that to facilitate lower costs in the hemisphere and in Central America will be on my agenda.” In April, Obama’s national security advisor noted that US allies around the world are lining up for US gas in expectation of exports; most notably, Japan--which is chomping at the bit to partner up with US LNG exporters—but also India.
Recommendation: We see no other alternative here but for the US to become a natural gas exporter. Pressure is mounting and the market is demanding it. But there’s a geopolitical element here, too: Proponents like to point out that by becoming a net gas exporter, the US would deal a major blow to both Russia and Iran—major gas suppliers. Geopolitically, it’s an opportunity that will be hard to turn down because essentially it will give the US what it needs to buy more allies who are on the fence because they are beholden to Russia or Iranian gas (like Turkey). It will be gradual: We’re looking at the likely approval of 3 major export applications soon—all of which the Energy Department has already green-lighted. Moody’s projects that by 2020, the US will be exporting 9% of its natural gas.