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Natural Gas Exports Advance in House

by Nan Swift / /

Last week, H.R. 6, the Domestic Freedom and Global Prosperity Act, passed the House 266 to 150, with 46 Democrats joining the vast majority of Republicans to push the measure over the top. NTU has supported H.R. 6 since its introduction back in the spring because it would “expedite current pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) export applications and streamline the process for future applicants,” as we stated in our endorsement letter.

And the bill passed not a moment too soon. Today, the U.S. is the number one natural gas producer in the world thanks to the shale gas revolution, but as the old saying goes “he who hesitates is lost.” Improved technology has boosted the discovery and development of shale oil and gas reserves the world over, and if we don’t act soon, the window of opportunity could be shut to U.S. exports as other sources from Scotland to India come online.

Here at home, domestic consumption has remained flat even as natural gas production has sky-rocketed. Low-cost energy is a boon for consumers, but as the availability of natural resources continues to expand, it’s clear that there’s plenty of room for the industry to grow and export LNG abroad to other markets. Doing so would ensure the long-term profitability of the natural gas industry and open the doors for even more growth in a sector of the economy with lots of opportunities for new jobs and investment: two essentials our economy is otherwise lacking right now.

The bottom line for taxpayers is that natural gas is an industry with room to grow if we get hurdles like export restrictions out of the way and we need to do so quickly to take advantage of an international appetite for clean-burning, low-cost energy.

Lately it seems that bills pass the House only to die in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) “do nothing” Senate—and that very well could be the same dismal fate that awaits H.R. 6. Yet, a glimmer of hope remains. Only a day after Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced his LNG export legislation, Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced his own LNG export bill, S. 2083, the “American Job Creation and Strategic Alliances LNG Act.” The legislation closely mirrors H.R. 6 in that it also calls for an expedited application and approval process for LNG exports to World Trade Organization partners, although it stops short of the detailed plan, deadlines, and transparency outlined in H.R. 6. Still, it would be an important step in the right direction were Sen. Reid to allow a vote on S. 2083—practically any compromise bill that emerged from a conference  would be a net gain for energy and job growth in the U.S.

Of course, political considerations could factor into this issue, as Rep. Gardner is running against Sen. Udall. TheHill.com is reporting that “The lack of votes has become a liability for vulnerable Democratic incumbents from conservative states.” Colorado is not considered to be a conservative state, but the Cook Political Report did move the U.S. Senate race from “Lean D” to “Toss Up” in April. This change in the political landscape could force Reid’s hand and help bring the LNG legislation to the floor for a vote.  The same motivation could also work in taxpayers’ favor on another outstanding energy issue, the Keystone Pipeline, which has passed the House in numerous iterations, but still has yet to see the light of day on the Senate floor despite Sen. Mary Landreiu’s (D-LA) sponsorship of the bill. Instead of re-fighting jobs-killing battles, like bringing back the minimum wage hike, Sen. Reid should let bills come to the floor that put America back to work before these opportunities pass us by.