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

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.