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Fossil fuel industry unleashes on Biden for halting key natural gas projects

A coalition of dozens of major fossil fuel industry groups sent a joint letter to the Biden administration, calling for it to reverse an expected decision halting key projects.

A large coalition of more than 30 fossil fuel industry associations is raising the alarm over an expected White House decision to delay permitting for key natural gas export facilities over their potential climate impacts.

The groups — including the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC) — penned a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, saying the actions would be a "major mistake," harming U.S. jobs and putting allies at risk. The letter came shortly after The New York Times reported President Biden will soon order climate impact analyses for 17 proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal projects.

"The United States is the world leader in natural gas production, meeting record domestic demand and becoming the top exporter of LNG in 2023," the joint letter stated. "Our nation’s abundant supply of natural gas is an impactful geopolitical tool, helping insulate American consumers from increasing global instability while advancing American national interests and ensuring the energy security of key U.S. allies."

"Moving forward with a pause on U.S. LNG export approvals would only bolster Russian influence and undercut President Biden’s own commitment to supply our allies with reliable energy, undermining American credibility and threatening American jobs," they continued.

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According to industry, LNG export facilities are vital to meet energy demand in Europe and Asia as nations look to wean off Russian natural gas supplies. In the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, Biden traveled to Europe and struck a deal with the European Union, vowing to send more U.S. LNG to the bloc.

And this month, energy associations Eurogas and the Asia Natural Gas & Energy Association (ANGEA) issued strong statements of support for continued permitting of U.S. LNG export terminals. Eurogas reiterated such exports were critical for ensuring the full phase down of Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas, while ANGEA added U.S. LNG is needed to meet Asia's decarbonization goals.

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However, the New York Times report Wednesday, citing three unnamed officials with knowledge of internal deliberations, stated Biden would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a more rigorous environmental review process for 17 pending LNG export terminals. 

While the DOE still needs to sign off on the proposed projects' permits, it was not previously required to analyze their contribution to climate change. The agency has never before rejected a gas export application on climate grounds.

"This would be a win for Russia and a loss for American allies, U.S. jobs and global climate progress," API CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement. "There is no review needed to understand the clear benefits of U.S. LNG for stabilizing global energy markets, supporting thousands of American jobs and reducing emissions around the world by transitioning countries toward cleaner fuels."

"This is nothing more than a broken promise to U.S. allies, and it’s time for the administration to stop playing politics with global energy security," he said.

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In addition, proponents of increased LNG exports have noted that transitioning the world's economy to more natural gas reliance would also help ensure nations meet decarbonization goals. Without increased LNG, they argue, nations would rely more heavily on coal-fired power generation, which has a much larger carbon footprint when burned than natural gas power generation.

The industry letter to Granholm noted that the U.S. has led the world in carbon emissions reductions thanks in large part to greater reliance on natural gas. Coal produced the largest share of electricity generated in the U.S. for decades until 2015 when natural gas surpassed it.

"America should be exporting more LNG not less, and any action or future plan to hinder American LNG exports, including the White House's reported pause on CP2, is misguided policy that undermines the US economy, our allies' security, and global emissions goals," AXPC CEO Anne Bradbury said in a statement.

Among the projects that would be impacted by the DOE's review is the so-called Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2) project, a proposed $10 billion LNG terminal located on a 546-acre site in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, which would be the largest export terminal of its kind in the nation. 

According to its developer Venture Global, the facility would have a nameplate export capacity of 20 million metric tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG and a peak capacity of about 24 MTPA. In 2023, the U.S. exported 88.9 MT of LNG, according to a FOX Business analysis of tanker tracking data, meaning the CP2 facility would alone increase exports by a staggering 23%.

"It appears that individuals within the White House are trying to force policymaking through leaks to the media. This continues to create uncertainty about whether our allies can rely on US LNG for their energy security," Shaylyn Hynes, a spokesperson for energy developer Venture Global, said in a statement. "If this leaked report from anonymous White House sources is true, it appears the Administration may be putting a moratorium on the entire U.S. LNG industry."

"Such an action would shock the global energy market, having the impact of an economic sanction, and send a devastating signal to our allies that they can no longer rely on the United States," Hynes added. "The true irony is this policy would hurt the climate and lead to increased emissions as it would force the world to pivot to coal."

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