Right on cue, as it becomes obvious that Europe needs to be less dependent on Russian gas and oil, environmental groups here in the US have begun stepping up presure on President Obama to reject building the infrastructure necessary to help realize that strategic need. A coalition of environmental groups is calling on the administration to reject permits that would build Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export terminals.

Environmental groups called on President Obama Tuesday to reject pending applications to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, citing the negative impacts from natural gas throughout its life cycle.

The pressure from green groups comes amid Republican calls for the administration to speed up the application process in response to Russia’s use of its natural gas resources as political leverage over Europe. Russia supplies most of Ukraine’s natural gas and is also a major supplier throughout much of Europe.

The GOP argues the U.S. could loosen Russia’s grip over Ukraine and Europe by building more terminals and exporting more natural gas.

Success in delaying the Keystone XL pipeline through their pressure has emboldened these groups. And, with President Obama stating that climate change was one of his second term priorities, the groups are looking for every opportunity to use climate change as a justification for delaying or stopping hyrdocarbon use of any sort. In this case, it’s natural gas. Their first target is the proposed LNG terminal at Cove Point in Lusby, Md.:

The Sierra Club, 350.org and the Chesapeake Coalition, along with other allied groups, specifically asked Obama to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to conduct a full environmental review of Dominion Resources Inc.’s proposed Cove Point terminal.

“The proposed Cove Point LNG terminal would certainly make gas companies richer, but it would make our own country more poor,” Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club, told reporters Tuesday. “Building a new LNG terminal doesn’t strengthen our nation, and it further disrupts our climate.”

The groups argue increasing production of natural gas would lead to more hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, a natural-gas extraction process they said causes massive harm to the environment while releasing large amounts of greenhouse gas.

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, warned that supporting natural gas could be politically detrimental to the president.

“Everybody’s watching now, this kind of stuff. And Democratic politicians who thought they might get by with a wink and a nod aren’t,” McKibben said. “Fracking’s become a dirty word, for good reason. “

Of course, fracking isn’t a “dirty word” to anyone but environmentalists. Fracking has been in constant use since 1948 on over a million oil wells. It isn’t “new technology”, but certainly it is now improved technology and it allows us the bonanza in natural gas that we’re presently enjoying.

And if these environmental groups were really all about reducing greenhouse gases, they’d likely get behind the use of natural gas like the Sierra Club did in 2008. At the time it was taking millions from the natural gas industry:

“Use renewables as much as we can. Natural gas is the next-cleanest fuel, then we have oil and then we have coal… We’re trying to make sure that we innovatively and creatively use whatever fuel we burn (and) that we rely primarily on the fuels that are the cleanest… And, among the fossil fuels, natural gas is at the top.” – Carl Pope, Chairman, Sierra Club

That’s precisely the argument the environmental coalition received in answer to their claims:

In a statement responding to the letter, Dominion said natural gas could cut greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to using coal for electricity.

“Slowing or preventing natural gas exports from the United States is a step in exactly the wrong direction for those who are concerned about climate change,” Pamela Faggert, Dominion’s chief environmental officer, said in the statement.

This, of course, puts the Obama administration in a pickle.  On the one hand, it is clear that increasing LNG exports is a strategically necessary move to counter the leverage Russia now enjoys over Europe with Europes dependence on Russian gas.  But to do that, the numerous LNG terminal applications must be approved.  On the other hand, this administration has been one of the most tenacious foes of the domestic petroleum industry in the history of the country.  Only new finds on state and private lands have seen an increase in production as federal permits have been slow-walked or denied during the Obama administration and large projects, such as Keystone, delayed or possibly denied altogether.

The administration will now be faced with a decision to support its strategic allies and make it harder for Russia to expand its power or cave into the green group pressure and further cripple the country’s ability to wean itself from imported petroleum and exploit the huge natural gas reserves we enjoy.

Politics and ideology usually prevail with this administration so it won’t suprise anyone if, given Keystone, the premits are delayed indefinitely or rejected outright.

~McQ