The executive branch gives the green light to export LNG. The Obama Administration, through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, OK’s exports out of a Cheniere-owned terminal in Louisiana last April, but has not approved any since.
There’s a moratorium on approving export terminals until the White House has time to review an outside study about how exports would affect the domestic market. That study, reportedly due out by the end of the year, will not address Alaska’s export potential. The state already has approval to export gas from Cook Inlet.
Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, said exporting LNG would have little, if any, effect on consumers in the States.
“Everyday consumers are basically getting as much natural gas as they want,” Hirs said in a phone interview. “Prices are down significantly from 2008 where the average price was about $8 an MCF to this year, where prices have been about $3.”
The Center for Liquefied Natural Gas hopes to spread that word: That because of a huge surplus, exports won’t negatively affect the U.S. market. The trade association launched a new campaign today called the LNG Export Initiative.
Bill Cooper, president of the CLNG, said the timing – two weeks before the election – is purely coincidental.
So why now?
“Because we got it finished. I know that sounds terrible,” he said before laughing. “We’ve been working on this initiative all summer long, to do the research out in the field, and to process the raw data, and develop the website, the talking points and the messaging and all that took a long time.”
The campaign begins with a website and could evolve into commercials; trying to sway both the general public and the people who represent them in Congress. Cooper hopes that a show of public support for exports could speed up the backlog of pending applications.
He said even though the permitting process goes through both the Department of Energy and the FERC, it’s important Congress knows the potential value of LNG exports.
“It’s always important to make sure those with oversight authority over any federal agency is up to speed and aware of the information that’s out there and can inform them on future decisions or indecisions,” he said.
One lawmaker who says the U.S. needs to slow down on exporting LNG is Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. Regardless of what happens in the election, Wyden will likely be the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee.
At a July committee hearing, he warned that exports could increase the volatility in the natural gas market.
“If you think guessing on the future of natural gas prices was a challenge before, add the international competition from companies that are already paying four, five times as much. And see if the road to stability and predictable natural gas prices smooths out,” Wyden said.
On his recent swing through the state, Wyden indicated he’s okay with Alaska exporting its LNG, just not the rest of the country. While that’s good news for his Committee counterpart, Senator Lisa Murkowski, it will prove a tough sell to other Senators from gas-rich states.