SUMMARY: Sunday Editorial, New York Times, December 15, 2012
Sending U.S. Natural Gas Abroad in LNG Tankers
A new and long-awaited report from the Department of Energy has concluded that the government should quickly begin easing restrictions on the export of natural gas to take advantage of the vast new discoveries of a fuel that only a decade ago was in relatively short supply in this country.
Exporting natural gas is a controversial issue, with powerful forces on both sides. But we are persuaded by the report’s core finding that the benefits of selling gas to other countries would more than offset the modestly negative impact of higher prices for domestic users of the fuel.
The main opposition comes from chemical and fertilizer companies that are big users of natural gas, and from consumers who fear higher prices. With more gas headed to foreign shores, domestic supplies of the fuel are expected to fall, driving up its price. But prices would still be well below their 2008 levels, and they would rise only gradually, over the course of several years.
A second objection comes mainly from some environmental groups that regard fracturing, the technique used to extract gas from deep shale formations, as environmentally dangerous. These concerns are best addressed by much tighter regulation of gas production, not by restricting exports.
There is no certainty that the Obama administration will approve more than a few new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, which take several years to build. But 15 new terminals have been proposed by the industry. Of these, four are scheduled to receive regulatory decisions in 2013. At the very least the administration should give the green light to the four that are pending and accelerate the review process for the rest.
COMMENTARY by John Cobb, Resident Of Central WV
From my viewpoint here in Ireland, West Virginia, this is all we need across West Virginia and it certainly will be an opening of the flood gates on Marcellus Drilling if our nation’s natural gas is shipped overseas.
Of course, this would be a good thing. According to the gasologists, the price is now artificially depressed in the US. The gas interests would be able to make more money by selling gas to Europe, etc., where the price is set by the market.
I know the effect would be to really juice the gas interests; and of course nothing juices businessmen and investors like higher and bigger profits. Drilling and exporting would skyrocket, and the reality or not of the actual gas resources of the U. S. would be determined by the market.
The US economy has been hopping from one bubble to the next. No need to list them again. The impacts of each bubble popping gets bigger from bubble to bubble. The “gas bubble”, however, is right there at the heart of the matter: energy is the bloodstream of the economy. A big bubble in the bloodstream is a distinct no no. The sooner the truth of the gas bubble is out, the better. Let ‘er rip!
P. S. For those of us who are worried about the environment, this “open the valve wide” approach should supposedly cause the least overall damage. We all know that the inexorable force of money tends to grind on glacier-like, and works its mayhem (when its effect is mayhem) best with the least attention.
The attention given gas these days is sub-critical. The current boosterism is enough to attract capital, and gas does flow. The effect on an actual solution of the energy problem becomes a reprise of that frog in the pan of water on the stove: by the time the amphibian realizes its predicament, it lacks the energy to save itself.
Pulling out the stops will get everybody with a backyard involved, hopely before their backyards look like the backyard of the farm that my mother grew up on in SW Pennsylvania’s coal country. I fear that little by little, we will see our environment and our backyards slip away.
Our backyards are sadly so far away from the folks that make the decisions. While the greenness of our own personal backyards belie the problem. Now unfortunately, it looks like the Gas Industry is working to pull out all the stops on Marcellus Drilling.
John Cobb, Ireland, Lewis County, WV