AFL-CIO: Bring on the natural-gas exports, Keystone XL

posted at 5:21 pm on February 7, 2014 by Erika Johnsen

Big Labor’s support for the Keystone XL pipeline has been on the books for a long time — theirs is one of the fissures in the progressive coalition that has turned the project into such a giant politicized headache for the White House — but I am a little surprised by the apparent endorsement of natural gas exports.

The Obama administration has approved four liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminals in their five years of fiefdom, but otherwise, they’ve done little more than sit on their hands while lawmakers have battled over whether or not approving some of the more than 20 pending applications would raise the domestic price of natural gas and whether doing so would be of a net economic benefit to the United States (…duh). Some of the strongest opposition to furthering LNG exports has come from niche manufacturing and chemical interests worried that any rise in natural gas prices would be an inconvenience to their gas-intensive industries, and given that those sorts of factory jobs have such a presence among (often rabidly protectionist) unions, I might have guessed that Big Labor would be either opposed or neutral. Evidently, however, my guess would have been way off: Just like with the Keystone XL pipeline, the manifold benefits in terms of total U.S. job and wealth creation that could come from exporting more gas completely outweigh those niche interests:

On a recent conference call with reporters, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsed two initiatives reviled by green groups: the Keystone XL pipeline and new natural gas export terminals.

“There’s no environmental reason that [the pipeline] can’t be done safely while at the same time creating jobs,” said Trumka. …

“Increasing the energy supply in the country is an important thing for us to be looking at,” Trumka said. “All facets of it ought to be up on the table and ought to be talked about. If we have the ability to export natural gas without increasing the price or disadvantaging American industry in the process, then we should carefully consider that and adopt policies to allow it to happen and help, because God only knows we do need help with our trade balance.”

The call came amidst a series of three speeches by the AFL-CIO leader pushing for more investment in energy and transportation infrastructure.

While Labor does reliably tend to hold an egregiously punishing attitude toward imports (because free trade is a one-way street, or something), they’re of course all about boosting exports and the subsequently higher prices they can fetch in a global market — and oil and gas are the rising stars of the American export scene.


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Strange bedfellows indeed.

airupthere on February 7, 2014 at 5:31 PM

this ought to be good, let’s have the SAG duke it out with he AFL-CIO

The Keystone deal is an anchor around Obama’s neck. That is why I thought the conservative house members were right to ignore as a sweetener from Boehner. Odd that Boehner didn’t see that as well.

DanMan on February 7, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Union jobs, only Mister President, if you know what’s good for you… /s/ AFL-CIO

Khun Joe on February 7, 2014 at 5:36 PM

FDR would have approved in a heart beat. One cannot constantly complain about lacking infrastructure investments, repeatedly talk about “all of the above” energy policy and then endlessly delay a project like this pipeline.

Pasionaria on February 7, 2014 at 5:39 PM

It’s basic economics: exporting the gas benefits nearly everyone. Perhaps n gas would be priced slightly lower without exports, but US gas production would be considerably lower, and the world market prices for gas would be higher without our exports. Most significantly, with higher gas production and exports, wealth and jobs flow into our economy. Again, this is going to by far offset any marginal reductions in gas prices through govt export restrictions.

anotherJoe on February 7, 2014 at 5:42 PM

Looks like Trumka was played by the User-in-Chief. Now safely re-elected with the help of the unions, he has no need for them anymore. Well, maybe for amnesty, but they’re on the same side there. Methinks Zero will choose the environmentalists in this one.

NY2SC on February 7, 2014 at 5:48 PM

FDR would have approved in a heart beat. One cannot constantly complain about lacking infrastructure investments, repeatedly talk about “all of the above” energy policy and then endlessly delay a project like this pipeline.

Pasionaria on February 7, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Sure Obama can, he’s gotten away with it so far, and may be able to milk it for the rest of his term. I, at first, thought Obama was overplaying blaming Bush for the economy, but he’s successful at that too.

Tl;dr version: the facts don’t matter.

Fenris on February 7, 2014 at 5:50 PM

Imagine Saudi Arabia forbidding exports of oil so gasoline prices would be cheaper in Saudi Arabia.

Ridiculous, right? It certainly is, and restricting imports of natural gas in our country amounts to the same type of economically stupid behavior, just not on as noticeable a scale as it would be in Saudi Arabia. But, conceivably we could produce quite a huge amount of excess natural gas, and brings loads of wealth and tons of jobs into this country. Saying you can’t export gas would stop that in its tracks. Dumb.

anotherJoe on February 7, 2014 at 5:50 PM

One cannot constantly complain about lacking infrastructure investments, repeatedly talk about “all of the above” energy policy and then endlessly delay a project like this pipeline.

Pasionaria on February 7, 2014 at 5:39 PM

But “The One” can, unfortunately.

yaedon on February 7, 2014 at 5:52 PM

The unions’ problem today is they’re unwilling to do anything but bluff with the Democrats. Whether it’s Keystone, LNG exports or their current anger over the negative effects of ObamaCare, the Democrats know the unions will whine and possibly cut back on some of their campaign donations. But it’s not like they’re going to actually endorse any high-profile Republicans who support Keystone and oppose ObamaCare. That’s why the president feels to urgency to do anything, and other Dems not part of the militant environmentalist wing of the party feel no urgency to pressure him to do anything.

jon1979 on February 7, 2014 at 5:53 PM

No jobs in exporting solar.

Or wind.

BKeyser on February 7, 2014 at 5:54 PM

Psst, unions, it’s conservatives who want you to have jobs, not progressives.

rbj on February 7, 2014 at 5:58 PM

King Barack is weighing the matter on a set of scales right now before he lets the State Department make a final decision.

Who has more money, the unions or the environmentalists?

Screw the country, it’s the campaign contributions that matter.

GarandFan on February 7, 2014 at 5:59 PM

The unionconservatives’ problem today is they’re unwilling to do anything but bluff with the DemocratsRepublicans. Whether it’s Keystonelifting the debt ceiling, LNG exports eliminating the deficit or their current anger over the negative effects of ObamaCare, the Democrats Replublicans know the unions conservatives will whine and possibly cut back on some of their campaign donations. But it’s not like they’re going to actually endorse any high-profile RepublicansDemocrats.

jon1979 on February 7, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Wow! Sounds a lot like our situation a few years ago. I guess the Dems treat unions like Repubs treat conservatives. And while we’re still not going to endorse any high-profile Democrats, there are two major difference:

1. Conservatives have been able to find candidates with which to successfully primary incumbent Repubs. Unions know that finding a Dem to represent their interests on those three issues is next to impossible.

2. Conservatives have proven and continue to prove that we’re no longer bluffing.

yaedon on February 7, 2014 at 6:06 PM

Only if ethanol can be added to it ! /s

Ruckus_Tom on February 7, 2014 at 6:07 PM

That pic gives me nausea and diarrhea at the same time

jaywemm on February 7, 2014 at 6:15 PM

Well at least Obama lies to every one about every thing.

APACHEWHOKNOWS on February 7, 2014 at 6:22 PM

No conservative cartoonist could ever create a caricature that better represents a corrupt, dishonest union thug as well as the real life Richard Trumka.

bw222 on February 7, 2014 at 6:40 PM

WOW! Two points I agree with big labor on:
-export of LNG
-approving Keystone XL

Next you know they’ll be aiming to lift the ban on crude exports too!

abnormal_1 on February 7, 2014 at 7:08 PM

Whoa!! I am glad that I am sitting down. Trumpka and I actually agree on something. Strange world indeed.

307wolverine on February 7, 2014 at 7:56 PM

Whatever

wolly4321 on February 8, 2014 at 12:09 AM

hatever wolly4321 on February 8, 2014 at 12:09 AM.

Belay that. Trying to learn how to link. Epic fail.

wolly4321 on February 8, 2014 at 12:11 AM

Dear Leader President Palpatine said no, and no means no, except when it doesn’t mean no. President Palpatine isn’t interested in creating jobs. You Union guys need to keep your mouth shut, keep the cash flowing, and vote Democrat. He is too busy running the country writing executive orders on how many plies of material Charmin can have, and on seizing 401k’s, so don’t bother him, he is busy

Brock Robamney on February 8, 2014 at 8:59 AM

That’s it, the President and Union love the Pipeline now they get $15.00 per hour minimum wage plus Obama Care and other benefits afforded the oil industry today, and they will taxed at the 35% Federal bracket, and 20%-35% State taxes (depending on which state they are working).

Another income and voter flow into the Democratic coffers.

MSGTAS on February 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Unions have had their heyday. Keep up the gridlock till after the midterms.

ezspirit on February 9, 2014 at 12:06 PM