Heavy hitters on both sides of the natural gas debate warned senators Tuesday that the natural gas boom could fizzle if the U.S. takes the wrong tack.
The goal, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, is to allow the U.S. to reap the benefits of natural gas development and exports while protecting consumers and reducing the trade deficit.
“We’re going to look at all of the possibilities to find the sweet spot,” Wyden said after Tuesday’s hearing, the first the committee has held this session.
The U.S. is in the midst of a shale revolution, with fracking making accessible deposits of gas trapped deep in shale rock that a decade ago were unreachable. The abundance has shifted U.S. energy thinking from one of scarcity to one in which the nation could begin to export natural gas through liquefaction plants along the coasts. A number of projects are awaiting approval from the Department of Energy.
But some industry groups say exporting too much of the nation’s gas bounty could backfire.
“Natural gas is an indispensable ingredient for everything that is made in this country,” said Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical. “So, when natural gas is not solely used as an export, and is used as a building block for manufactured goods, it creates eight times more value across the entire economy. In this way, American’s natural gas bounty is more than a simple commodity. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to export advanced products and not just BTUs.”
Allowing both exports and increased production of manufactured goods, said Liveris, would create a four-fold win: lower energy costs for Americans, stable prices for manufacturers, more exports for producers and a competitive advantage for the economy.
But rushing policy on liquefied natural gas exports could lead the U.S. down the wrong path, he said, especially given that no one can predict where we’ll be 10 years from now.
“This is only year four or five of a 100-year advantage,” Liveris said. “We have the time. We should take the time to get this right.”
Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke said the only way for the U.S. to move forward responsibly is to ensure that there’s public confidence around natural gas development.