Natural Gas Export Fight Heats Up

From The Wall Street Journal

By Keith Johnson

A Democratic senator lambasted the Energy Department Thursday for a recent analysis that concluded exports of liquefied natural gas would benefit the U.S. His comments came on the same day a group of industrial users of gas banded together to fight against unfettered exports.

A big jump in U.S. natural-gas production in recent years has turned the U.S. from a prospective gas importer to a possible exporter of the fuel. That has sparked a fight between gas producers—who would like to export their product to Europe and Asia where gas is more costly—and some manufacturers, utilities and other industrial users who want gas to stay cheap and mostly in the U.S.

After peaking at about $14 per million British thermal units in 2008, natural-gas prices sank to about $2 per million BTU last year; they now are about $3.20.

The Energy Department is reviewing 16 applications for liquefied natural-gas export terminals and may begin to make decisions as soon as early this year. Its release last month of a long-awaited third-party economic analysis that backed LNG exports is an important part of that review process.

The Energy Department must sign off on plans to ship natural gas to countries with which the U.S. doesn’t have a free-trade agreement. That includes Japan and major users in Europe.

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