Congresspeople to DOE: It's time to let the natural-gas party get started

The Obama administration has paid plenty of lip service to the quickly-burgeoning natural gas industry, as well they should — further natural gas development holds tremendous (and fully private-sector!) potential in terms of wealth-and-job creation, energy security, and bringing down our carbon footprint. But, spoiler-alert: The Obama administration’s words and the Obama administration’s deeds don’t always match up too well.

At the moment, the Department of Energy has holds via federal law on exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) to countries with which the U.S. doesn’t have special free-trade agreements, because they need to determine whether said exports would in fact be in the national interests — and, conveniently, the DOE announced last week that the commissioned report on the economics of LNG exports is going to be delayed until after the election (it was originally scheduled to be released last March, cough cough).

Certain Democrats and opponents of natural gas drilling argue that allowing our domestic LNG resources to be introduced to the competition of the global market would raise prices domestically, but time and time again, that sort of protectionist-thinking makes for some pretty horrendous economics. Sure, selling our LNG in a free and open market might raise the price we pay for it, but that’s even less than half of the story; within the economy as a whole, the influx of wealth, jobs, and economic growth would more than offset any negative effects of a price increase. On a net evaluation, we will all be richer — that’s what free trade does.

What’s more, it’s pretty hypocritical of us to be in the business of doing things like filing WTO complaints against China for their restrictions on exports of rare earth elements, which we need to make wind turbines, when we’re doing pretty much the same thing within our own country when it comes to natural gas. (And yes, by the way, you read that correctly — we need China to provide us with the means of producing the renewable energies that Barack Obama constantly tells us will help to make us energy independent. Galling, isn’t it?)

Ergo, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to put more pressure on the Obama administration to get them to quit dragging their feet and allow American enterprise to do what it does best, via The Hill:

A bipartisan group of 16 House members from Heartland and Western states added their voices Monday to calls on the administration to expedite natural gas exports.

Lawmakers from Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming urged Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a letter to accelerate approval of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

“[A]llowing natural gas — like other U.S. commodities — to have the opportunity to sell its product on the worldwide market will create new jobs and help balance our trade deficit,” the letter said. …

The letter follows on one sent by a bipartisan group of 44 lawmakers from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas sent in August.

When you stop and think about it, the Obama administration’s relative lethargy on unleashing the natural-gas industry is pretty damned inexcusable. President Obama tells us that he wants jobs; he wants economic growth; he wants cleaner technology; blah blah blah. Well, here we are, sittin’ pretty on top of ever-expanding natural-gas reserves while our economy’s heartbeat shows only fluttering signs of life. Not okay.