New Carnegie Mellon Study Highlights Environmental, Economic Benefits of LNG

According to new a Carnegie Mellon University study – the first peer-reviewed paper of its kind – exporting clean-burning U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) “would help reduce global GHG emissions” and such policy will be “good for the climate.” This research follows a recently released White House Council of Economic Advisers report, which underscores the “key role” that natural gas continues to play in strengthening America’s geopolitical leverage, heightening our energy security and enhancing our environment. Taken together, these studies – and countless others – reflect the fact that America’s energy outlook has shifted from scarcity and weakness to abundance and strength.

Here are key CMU study takeaways [press release]:

  • Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering researchers determined that exporting natural gas to Asia or Europe will not cause increased greenhouse gas emissions. Their findings were recently published in a paper in “Environmental Science and Technology.” … In the majority of the outcomes the researchers considered, they found the most likely outcome is that U.S. energy exports would help reduce global GHG emissions.
  • The paper, titled “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions From U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Exports: Implications for End Uses,” has special significance for climate science because it is the first peer-reviewed paper that quantifies whether exporting U.S. LNG is good for the climate. These findings have major implications for U.S. climate and trade policy.
  • Prior to 2008, U.S. domestic natural gas production did not meet projected demand growth, and the national natural gas debate centered on LNG imports. … As unconventional natural gas production (shale gas) became economically viable, U.S. technically recoverable natural gas reserves increased by 665 Tcf, which represents an increase in total U.S. natural gas resources of 38%.
  • Globally, the LNG trade reached about 12 Tcf of natural gas in 2012, and based on the projects worldwide currently under construction or proposed, liquefaction capacity could increase by more than 100% within the next 10 years.
  • As regulation progresses and the domestic fugitive emissions rate decreases, it will become more likely that LNG exports will result in global emissions savings. … From a global emissions perspective, this study has shown that exporting LNG can help to reduce life cycle GHG emissions from electricity generation and industrial heating.

And here’s what else they’re saying about LNG’s “significant benefits”:

  • LNG Exports Can Power America’s Economic Recovery”: During the darkest days of the Great Recession, one of the lone bright spots was America’s energy industry. Increased oil and natural gas production powered the manufacturing renaissance that pulled our economy back from the brink. … Today, America is the world’s largest producer of natural gas. We have the resources to be a major exporter of this cleaner, more versatile fuel. It’s estimated that liquefied natural gas exports can contribute up to $74 billion to America’s gross domestic product by 2035. … A faster and more transparent process for considering export permits would benefit America in at least four ways. First, and most importantly, it would help create American jobs.  … Second, a streamlined process would help reduce America’s trade deficit.  … Third, faster approvals would improve the energy security of our allies. … Finally, increased exports of American natural gas would have significant environmental benefits around the world. Burning this cleaner fuel could help reduce air pollution, especially in growing economies where the problem is at its worst. … Bringing certainty and transparency to the LNG export process is an example of how Washington can come together to find common-sense, bipartisan solutions. America’s workers, economy and allies will all benefit. (Roll Call op-ed, 2/23/15)
  • LNG: America’s Secret Weapon: The United States and the European Union have been debating whether they should provide arms for Ukraine, but the best weapons for fighting Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine a strong Europe are oil and gas. … Putin tips his hand with this dedicated focus on fracking, revealing just how much of a threat alternative energy sources pose to his control in Europe. “Energy is the most effective weapon today of the Russian Federation,” Victor Ponta, the Romanian prime minister told the New York Times last year. … This is the game that the United States can win if we choose to play. Exporting oil and gas poses one of the best opportunities to strengthen our allies in NATO and the European Union. The former Soviet Union provides more than 40 percent of Europe’s oil. …  This level of control leaves our allies vulnerable to price shocks and supply cuts at the whim of an expansionist oligarch. Yet U.S. crude is still restricted by a 1970s-era export ban and the federal government drags its feet on approving liquified natural gas exports. … The United States is one of the top gas producers in the world, and yet our closest allies rely on a belligerent neighbor to keep from freezing. … The oil and gas industry also has a duty to show Europe that fracking can be done safely. (Houston Chronicle editorial, 2/20/15)
  • Washington “Embraces Natural Gas Exports”: The Obama administration is warming up increasingly to U.S. exports of natural gas after years of blocking greater access by domestic producers to the international market. Tucked inside the White House’s latest economic report to Congress is a section on energy production, with President Obama’s top economic advisers embracing the concept of boosting natural gas exports as a driver of job growth … “An increase in U.S. exports of natural gas, and the resulting price changes, would have a number of mostly beneficial effects on natural gas producers, employment, U.S. geopolitical security, and the environment,” the report said. … The president’s economic team said increasing U.S. exports would: Spur even greater domestic production by raising prices; Create more jobs … as many as 65,000 per year; Result in a “positive geopolitical impact” for the U.S. around the globe by lowering natural gas prices abroad. … Over the past decade, S. natural gas production has exploded thanks to the discovery of new deposits such as the Marcellus Shale. … The U.S. now is the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas, according to government data. As a result of the skyrocketing production, exporting natural gas now is seen as a potential economic boon, but export projects face significant red tape in the federal government. (Washington Times, 2/22/15)
  • America Once Again “Unquestionably the World’s Greatest Energy Superpower”: America is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, we are on track to soon become the world’s largest crude oil producer, we are a world leader in the development of renewable resources and clean technologies, and we still hold the world’s largest coal reserves. The U.S. is now unquestionably the world’s greatest energy superpower. As a global energy leader, we hold the power to fuel an American manufacturing renaissance, improve the standard of living for millions of families, and rewrite geopolitical rules to favor America’s global standing and diminish the influence of dangerous regimes. But it’s up to Congress and the administration to seize this opportunity. … The increases in North American energy production can lower prices for consumers, but we need to build a modern and effective infrastructure system to transport our affordable energy supplies to those homes and businesses that need them. … We are incredibly fortunate to be in control of our energy destiny, and it’s time to change the course of America’s policy. Instead of outdated laws that hold on to an era of energy scarcity, we need a comprehensive energy policy that matches today’s era of abundance. This is our moment to make the most of our energy greatness. (The Hill op-ed, 2/20/15)

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