Biden Pauses LNG Exports to Consider Climate, Economic Impacts

LNG being transported by shipping vessel

(Credit: Department of Energy)

by | Jan 26, 2024

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The Biden administration has temporarily paused pending decisions for liquified natural gas (LNG) going to non-free trade agreement countries, citing the need for updated consideration of the climate damages and economic ramifications caused by such exports.

The Department of Energy’s current economic and environmental analyses for LNG export authorizations are now five years old. They therefore do not adequately reflect energy cost increases for United States consumers and manufacturers, and updated assessments of emissions from LNG activities are also reportedly needed. The pause will allow the DOE to conduct an updated analysis of the sector’s market, national security, and environmental impacts.

Concerns Over LNG Climate Impact, Health Hazard for U.S. Communities

The U.S. is the top exporter of LNG worldwide, and exports are expected to double in this decade. Considering the administration’s cited commitment to addressing climate change, various environmental groups have reportedly criticized the continued export of the fossil fuel as going against the country’s overall climate strategy. The decision is also meant to help support communities in the U.S. that are most vulnerable to pollution caused by LNG development, which is known to be harmful to human health.

“This administration is committed to the affordability of energy and economic opportunities for all Americans; strengthening energy security here in the US and with our allies; and protecting Americans against climate change and winning the clean energy future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. “This practical action will ensure that DOE remains a responsible actor using the most up-to-date economic and environmental analyses.”

The administration also said that the pause will not impact U.S. exports to allies around the world in the near term.

Research Shows LNG Responsible for High Methane Emissions

Natural gas has been considered a stepping stone away from other fossil fuels considered to be more damaging to the environment, specifically coal. However, recent studies have shown that LNG may not be a viable solution for displacing coal emissions as previously thought.

Some sources even claim that LNG may instead be worse for the climate than coal, largely because of the environmental impacts caused by LNG leaks and poorly managed handling of methane emissions. Methane is known to be much more potent than typical carbon emissions and may more quickly contribute to global warming.

The U.S. currently has seven LNG terminals and another five approved and under construction, according to a New York Times report. In December 2023, more than 150 scientists signed a letter to President Biden urging for the end of increased LNG exports, and specifically called for him to reject the controversial proposal for construction of the CP2 LNG facility in Louisiana.

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