Senate Hearing Emphasizes Positive Impact LNG has had on U.S. Economy

Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources held a hearing discussing the “Important Role of US LNG in Evolving Global Markets.” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) led the discussion. Witnesses who gave testimony included Hon. Steven Winberg, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy in the DoE; Dennis Arriola, Executive VP of Sempra Energy; and Charlie Riedl, Executive Director of the Center for LNG.

Discussion centered on the fact that U.S. LNG production and exports are at an all-time high. Witnesses testified about the effects this recent LNG boom has had on global and domestic markets and the U.S. economy. Dennis Arriola was optimistic that, as LNG production increases and more pipelines and export terminals are constructed, millions of new jobs will be created in addition to the thousands that have generated so far. “It’s clear: LNG exports create a lot of jobs, good paying jobs, here in this country,” according to Arriola.

Steven Winberg confirmed the positive impact that increased LNG exports have had on the U.S. economy, stating, “There is no doubt that natural gas has transformed our nation, and the world, for the better… It has created countless American jobs and has made our air cleaner.” Winberg continued that using LNG as a source of energy in combination with renewables such as wind and solar would be the best option for making U.S. energy more environmentally friendly. “Increased use of natural gas has helped lower energy-related carbon emissions to levels not seen since the last 1980s,” Winberg said, emphasizing that an “all of the above strategy” (renewables and natural gas acting as partners) would be the best when it comes to implementing cleaner energy in the United States.

Charlie Riedl agreed that using a mix of natural gas and renewable energy sources to power America would help lower carbon emissions, saying that “LNG exports could reduce global greenhouse emissions, by displacing more carbon intensive fuels.” He continued by emphasizing the positives LNG exports will bring: “U.S. LNG exports benefit everyone, with billions of dollars in investments, and thousands of dollars of good paying jobs here at home.”

Other points of discussion included a potential LNG trade deal between China and Alaska, with Chinese officials financing a pipeline project in Alaska, with the condition that China would receive 75% of all LNG produced from that terminal. However, there are many risks involved with this project according to Dr. Melanie Hart, Senior Fellow and Director of the China Program at the Center for American Progress. She emphasized that a foreign state-owned enterprise has never had a majority stake in a U.S. natural gas project before, and that multiple firms in the U.S. had rejected working on this project before China agreed to finance it. Dr. Hart was right to raise these concerns.

The hearing reiterated key facts about LNG that we already know; that LNG productions are at an all-time high, and that we need more infrastructure to transport said LNG in the safest, most environmentally friendly manner possible. The witnesses touched on the ongoing fights between environmental groups and pipeline developers, and how recent projects have been stalled by constant harassment and vandalism from activists. Senator Lee (R-UT) affirmed, “But in order for it [LNG] to benefit American consumers in the way that it should, we have to be able to get it from Point A to Point B.” As GAIN has reiterated time and again, there’s a serious natural gas distribution problem in this country: natural gas customers are getting rejected in New York, while Texas has so much natural gas that they’ve started burning the surplus because it’s cheaper than storing it. The facts show that this recent LNG boom has bolstered the economy and created thousands of jobs; and experts agree that more pipelines are vital when it comes to keeping this momentum going.

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