By all means, let's hold up this natural-gas export study a little more

Another day, another Democrat with a suggestion for ways in which the United States can cut off its nose to spite its face.

The federal government currently has holds placed on the export of liquified natural gas (LNG) to countries with which we do not already have special free-trade agreements, and while over a dozen outstanding applications to do so from energy companies wait in the wings, the Department of Energy was stalling to give more time to a report they commissioned to determine whether more widespread exporting of LNG would be in the United States’ overall interests (which is just plain silly, since the U.S. government actively supports exports in other economic sectors — demonstrating just how willing our lawmakers are to bend over backwards for well-monied special interests rather than the long-run general welfare).

The findings were repeatedly delayed (until after the election, cough), but the final report ultimately concluded that — shocker — free trade is not a zero-sum game, and that the further export of natural gas would be a boon to the United States in terms of productive private-sector job creation and economic growth (not to mention some possible geopolitical benefits!). Opponents (on behalf of environmentalist and niche manufacturing interests) took the protectionist tack and claimed that allowing exports might raise domestic prices, but there is ever-mounting evidence that, as ever, more free trade usually leads to more net wealth in general:

The Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions predicts exports of natural gas would boost domestic prices only slightly, while lowering them for several U.S. allies, according to a report released today.

“Our allies get help. The U.S. economy benefits. And some folks we have more strained relations with take a little bit of a hit, so it seems like a win all the way around,” said Peter Robertson, former vice chairman of Chevron’s board of directors and an independent senior advisor to the oil and gas group at Deloitte LLP.

The report, “Exporting the American Renaissance: Global impacts of LNG exports from the United States,” was released Tuesday, the third in a series of reports dealing with natural gas.

So, what seems to be the trouble? …I’m sure I don’t know, via The Hill:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants the Energy Department (DOE) to re-do a natural-gas export study to address “shortcomings,” setting the stage for a likely hearing on the matter.

Wyden, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said he is concerned the DOE-commissioned report by NERA Consulting failed to properly assess market demand and exports’ impact on natural gas prices.

“Although the NERA study acknowledges that some sectors of the economy will be hurt by exports, the NERA study fails to fully assess the impacts of rising natural gas prices on homeowners and businesses,” Wyden wrote in a Thursday letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The report concluded natural-gas exports would yield a net economic benefit. It also said the economic activity from exports would outweigh modest price increases that concern some Democrats and the manufacturing industry.

Fortunately for the energy industry, it looks like the Obama administration is preparing, albeit slowly, to perhaps approve some of these applications, but if the Department of Energy is seriously supposed to take up more of everybody’s time and effort coming to a conclusion of which everyone is already aware because certain special interests didn’t like the answer they got, who knows what kind of needless hurdles through which they’ll keep making the domestic energy industry jump.