It’s a small victory, but heck — the encouraging economic moves from this administration are painfully few and far between, and it’s Friday, so I’m taking it.

The battle over whether and how much natural gas the United States should export to countries with whom the United States doesn’t already have specialized free trade agreements has been raging for months, and I’m taking this as a tentative sign that the administration is finally realizing what a giant gift they’ve been handed in the form of the shale oil-and-gas boom. The domestic energy sector (and no, I’m not talking about windmills) has largely served as the economic saving grace of the Obama presidency, and although they don’t want to acknowledge it too loudly (I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot about how natural gas is a good “bridge fuel” on our way to more ‘sustainable’ ‘renewables’), they seem to be picking up the pace on letting these ponies run. Via Reuters:

The Obama administration on Wednesday authorized natural gas exports from a fourth U.S. facility, unexpectedly accelerating a review process that would-be gas exporters and their allies in Congress had criticized as too slow.

This speed at which the latest approval was reached – just five weeks after the previous project – puts the Department of Energy on a potential pace to rule on several more projects before year’s end.

But the permits are drawing concerns from skeptics of unlimited exports who warn that the United States risks giving away the nation’s economic advantage of cheap and abundant energy. They warned that the nation is quickly approaching a threshold that could lead to a spike in natural gas prices that would harm consumers and businesses.

Dominion Resource Inc’s (D.N) conditional permit for liquefied natural gas exports from its Cove Point terminal on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay came just over a month after the Energy Department approved exports from a terminal in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Yes, we know all about the “concerns from skeptics” who warn that “natural gas prices that would harm consumers and businesses,” blah blah blah. That’s nothing more than a big load of blather coming from chemical and manufacturing interests and the lawmakers who love them, as anyone who realizes that free trade is not a zero-sum game will gladly attest. As one of the DOE’s own studies concluded, sure, natural gas prices may indeed rise, but the net economic effect will indubitably be a positive one, because natural gas will be taking advantage of its true global-market value while the producers of that gas — hem hem, Americans — reap the rewards of jobs and GDP growth.