Ukraine Crisis Reignites Debate Over Natural Gas Exports

Mar 6, 2014

Liquefied Natural Gas Tanker
Credit Shell

The crisis in Ukraine has rekindled calls for the US to export more of its newfound glut of natural gas overseas, but not everyone thinks that’s a good idea.

In recent days a number of Congressmen, including Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, have called for the Department of Energy to expedite its approval of natural gas export terminals.  Barrasso says it would give the US more foreign policy leverage.

“The approval of contracts by the federal government, to say ‘this is going to go’ will undermine Russia’s pricing ability in the Ukraine and in Europe,” Barrasso says.

Russia has regularly used Ukraine’s dependence on its natural gas as a bargaining chip, shutting off the supply twice in recent years. Although the US does ship some liquefied natural gas overseas, critics say that permitting for additional export terminals has been too slow.  Of 21 applications made in the last three years, six facilities have been given the go-ahead. Barrasso introduced legislation last year calling for expedited approval of liquefied natural gas exports to ally nations. He’d still like to see that happen, and not just for foreign policy reasons.

“It would certainly help folks here in Wyoming and across the United States because we would export an American product,” Barrasso says.

Not everyone thinks exports are a good idea though. Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group representing a broad swath of the manufacturing industry, issued a statement Wednesday saying exporting natural gas would raise domestic prices, and undermine the manufacturing sector.

No matter what happens,  none of the gas would actually reach Ukraine in the near future. The first new natural gas export terminal is due to come online in 2015.