WASHINGTON – Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., continued his push for expanded exports of liquefied natural gas at a U.S. Senate committee hearing last week.
The hearing focused on the potential for the United States to export to Ukraine and many countries in Eastern Europe, countries that currently receive a majority of their energy from Russia. Proponents of exporting liquefied gas say it will provide greater global stability as well as boost the U.S. natural-gas industry.
“Our nation’s clean-burning and job-creating natural gas should and can play an important role in strengthening global security,” Udall said Tuesday. “The ongoing crisis in Ukraine, which we are discussing here today and around the world, and Russia’s threat to use its natural-gas exports as a weapon, shows why we need to responsibly develop our own natural-gas reserves and expand our capacity to export this resource abroad.”
Currently, U.S. producers can export liquefied natural gas, an easily-transportable form of natural gas, only to countries that have free-trade agreements with the United States. Otherwise, requests for export must be approved by a sometimes-lengthy Department of Energy process.
On March 5, Udall introduced a bill that would allow natural-gas exports to any member country of the World Trade Organization. A similar bill was introduced in the House on March 6 by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma. A subcommittee hearing on Gardner’s bill also was held Tuesday.
At the Senate hearing, Udall said he intends to amend the foreign-aid package for Ukraine, currently being considered by the Senate, to include the provision opening liquefied natural-gas exports to any WTO country.
The Senate hearing included testimony from the energy minister of Lithuania, a country whose entire energy supply comes from Russia. Jaroslav Neverovic talked about the high prices for energy charged by Russia and how U.S. natural-gas exports would provide competition and choice. Hungary’s ambassador-at-large for energy security testified in the House subcommittee hearing.
Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said immediate impact or relief for these countries was unrealistic because it takes years to approve facilities and get them going. However, Saccone said this illustrates why the United States should act now, so it can be in a place for the future.
Natural gas, a nonrenewable resource that many claim releases less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels, is found in deep underground rock. Most natural gas in the United States is found within shale formations, and its production has increased rapidly since 2000.
Shale gas is often withdrawn through a process called hydraulic fracturing, sometimes known as fracking. The process has environmental concerns if not done properly. Opponents say chemicals, waste and pollution have leaked into water supplies.
Katie Fiegenbaum is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Cortez Journal. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.