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Biden bends to pressure from climate activists in pausing the natural gas export terminals

Natural gas has also played a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen steadily in the United States since 2005, a result of the switch from coal-fired electricity generation to natural gas. But the Biden administration is hitting the "pause" button.

Published: January 26, 2024 11:00pm

The Biden administration is holding up the approval of natural gas exports in order to do more analysis on the climate impacts in response to pressure from climate activists who don’t want the project built at all.

The White House issued a statement Thursday explaining that President Joe Biden decided to pause approval of liquefied natural gas exports because of "historic hurricanes and floods wiping out homes, businesses and houses of worship."

"While MAGA Republicans willfully deny the urgency of the climate crisis, condemning the American people to a dangerous future," the president continued, "my Administration will not be complacent. We will not cede to special interests."

Officials in the Biden administration, according to The New York Times, have been in fact been meeting with "special interests," namely, the activists who launched an aggressive social media campaign aimed at blocking one of the projects, the Calcasieu Pass 2.

The White House, the Times reported, has directed the Department of Energy to consider the terminal’s impact on climate change in its review. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authorizes the construction of LNG import and export facilities, according to E&E News, and the DOE approves export licenses that are required to export natural gas to countries that lack a free-trade agreement with the U.S. That group includes European countries.

It’s unclear what projects the action will impact, Fox News reports. One official said it would only impact projects that have gone through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval process and are now awaiting export approval from the DOE.

Contrary to the president's claims of "historic hurricanes," the frequency of hurricanes has declined since 1945, and normalized flood damage, which controls for differences in impacted development over time, has declined considerably since 1940.

Planned for the Louisiana coast, the project, which is also called CP2, would have an export capacity of 20 million metric tonnes annually. The U.S. is currently the world’s largest exporter of natural gas, and the $10 billion project would increase export capacity by 20%.

Shalylyn Hynes, a spokesperson for the company building the CP2 project, told the Times that the administration appears to be putting a moratorium on the entire LNG [liquid natural gas] industry, which she warned would “shock the global market.”

“As we near the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our allies around the world are relying on the benefits of clean, reliable, and affordable American LNG and are keenly aware of the risks of relying on our adversaries for energy," said Anne Bradbury, CEO of the American Exploration & Production Council, a natural gas trade association group, in a statement emailed to Just The News.

It’s not just industry representatives that are warning that a block on U.S. LNG exports would have serious consequences for the global energy market. The Energy Policy Research Foundation (EPRINC), an independent nonprofit research organization with a focus on petroleum product markets, warned that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has become a primary source of LNG to European allies.

While European countries originally saw U.S. LNG shipments as temporary, a more pragmatic view in which the shipments are an important and ongoing energy source for the continent has emerged, the foundation’s president explained in an op-ed in October.

France’s minister delegate for foreign trade told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month that France will continue to need U.S. LNG. “What’s certain is that in the current geopolitical environment, we’re counting a lot on American gas,” the minister said.

Natural gas has also played a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions have fallen steadily in the United States since 2005, and much of that drop is, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, largely a result of the switch from coal-fired electricity generation to natural gas. In 2023, emissions dropped 1.9% for the same reason, according to the Rhodium Group, an energy research firm.

“U.S. produced LNG is the single most effective way to reduce overall global emissions globally.  It is a stable, reliable source of energy, produced in the most environmentally responsible way anywhere on earth. It is precisely the tool we want to use if we want to preserve geopolitical stability and support our allies,” Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, told Just The News.

Despite the impacts of increased use of natural gas on lowering emissions, many climate activists oppose any use of fossil fuels, regardless of benefits.  

Ben Jealous, the executive director of the Sierra Club, and Bill McKibben, founder of climate action group Third Act, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post Wednesday calling on President Joe Biden to block America’s LNG export capacity, arguing that approving the projects wouldn’t be in line with the calls at the COP28 climate conference for a transition away from fossil fuels.  

In December, 170 climate activists who research climate change wrote a letter to Biden demanding he stop the CP2 project, arguing it would further climate change. Neither the Post op-ed or the activists’ letter discussed how Europe should meet its energy needs without U.S. supplies of LNG or the potential impacts of energy poverty if those supplies were cut off.

“Rather than unilaterally halting new US LNG export approvals, the administration should work with industry to grow the global use of US LNG to make America stronger and the world safer," Bradbury said.

McKibben, a long-time anti-fossil fuel crusader, is organizing three days of “nonviolent civil disobedience,” starting on Feb. 6, at the Department of Energy. The protest is aimed at further pushing Biden to stop approving LNG terminals.

Stewart said that climate groups will try to stop natural gas, even if it means an increase in global emissions.

“Big Green greatly fears the LNG story because it destabilizes their own business plan, which is based on perpetual crisis-mongering. Successfully reaching climate goals by natural gas rather than renewables is a threat to the established narrative and renders Big Green irrelevant,” Stewart said.

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