Barrasso Pushes To Get Wyoming Natural Gas Sold Overseas

Aug 2, 2019

Credit Cooper McKim / Wyoming Public Radio

House Democrats are taking aim at an issue Wyoming Senator John Barrasso seems to have spent the most time on in the past few years: Exporting American, well - Wyoming energy - abroad.

Back in June House Democrats passed an amendment to a spending bill that would strictly forbid the Secretary of Transportation from allowing natural gas companies to ship liquefied gas by rail. The argument then was public safety, but some House Democrats are also working to stop the shipment of liquefied natural gas overseas. And environmental groups succeeded in getting one committee chair to approve a spending bill doing just that. Barrasso says the whole Democratic Party has taken a hard-left turn on climate change that's forgotten about American ingenuity.

"When if you actually want to have a long term impact, you need to come up with technology, not penalties, not taxation, but technology that China and India will use," Barrasso says.

While Barrasso has succeeded in forging a bipartisan coalition to approve LNG exports overseas, in part to combat Russian energy dominance in places like Europe, Democrats have cooled to the natural gas industry of late. Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse says former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and President Trump have coopted the entire industry.

"I am furious that the natural gas reversed itself on measuring its own methane leakage. They had more or less committed to do that until Trump and Pruitt came along, and then some of the worst forces in the industry did that. And now they're refusing even to measure their methane leakage," Whitehouse says.

Whitehouse says while Republicans are focused on the profits being reaped by the energy industry, his party has grown to see them as soulless.

"So at this point they're behaving so irresponsibly that it's hard to have much sympathy," Whitehouse says.

Wyoming's lone House member, Liz Cheney, says Democrats have jumped into the deep end and are now in over their heads with their proposals to get America completely off of fossil fuels in the coming decades.

"I think that the absolute lunacy of the efforts that are underway that you see on the part of Democrats here in the House that you see on the part of Democrats running for president to end fossil fuels is just ludicrous," Cheney says.

Cheney says many Democrat's climate proposals will have more far reaching consequences than they've even thought through.

"When you sit down and you think about how could we even quantify the cost of something like that. You can't really even quantify it because you'd have to figure in things like mass starvation and you know no power, no electricity no airplane. I mean it just it's it is it's ludicrous. And I think that it shows that they're not serious about dealing with the real challenges we face," Cheney says.

Still, Democrats counter that it's Republicans and their campaign coffers that are filled with energy profits that's the real problem. Earlier this month Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did a conference call where Sanders laid out how starkly he views the coming climate crisis.

"I'm reminded today, in terms of the crisis that we face in climate change, about where the United States was in 1941 when it was attacked at Pearl harbor. And what happened at that point - having to fight a war on two fronts, in the East and in Europe - the U.S. came together and within three years it had created the type of armaments program that was necessary, in fact, to win the war," Sanders says.

Cheney says Sanders and others in the Democratic Party have lost touch with reality.

"I just think that you know they're not living in the real world and they're disparaging an industry that is fundamentally the backbone of the tremendous economic growth and development we've seen in this country," Cheney says.

And Barrasso - one of the biggest champions of exporting American energy abroad on Capitol Hill - says these Democratic pipe dreams surrounding climate change would cripple America.

"Well this is part of the Green New Deal. It's just one part of what to me is a big green bomb that would blow a huge hole in our economy. In our strong, healthy and growing economy. It's unworkable," Barrasso says.

The battle is just beginning as the two parties gear up for the 2020 election where climate change and U.S. energy policy are promising to be two of the issues that paint starkest difference between the two parties.