The economic benefits of the U.S. energy revolution are apparent in virtually all sectors of the economy.
But equally important are their impacts on geopolitics and national security, not only because it has enabled the U.S. and much of the world to become less reliant on oil and gas imports from Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), but because it has enabled the U.S. to export its energy to countries that need it, making them less reliant on other sources.
Nowhere is this more obvious than with liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
In 2011, the U.S. became the world’s larger producer of natural gas. Year later, we are producing so much today, in 2018, that we need to export it to other countries to prevent a damaging supply glut in the U.S. According to the Potential Gas Committee, a research group funded by the American Petroleum Institute and other oil and gas interests, the U.S. has 2,817 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of technically recoverable natural gas resources. This is in addition to the approximately 324 Tcf of proved gas reserves estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
These are staggering numbers – enough gas to meet current world demand for 25 years.
Much of that gas is now being exported to Mexico. The remainder, meanwhile, is shipped around the world, as LNG. The U.S. supply of gas is limited merely by what we can produce and send to market — and U.S. LNG export growth is staggering. Last year, the U.S. accounted for 5 percent of global LNG exports. In three years, it is going to be the world’s third-largest exporter, with 20 percent of the market. Global demand is also huge that it grew by 3 percent in 2017. It is expected to increase an average of 1.4 percent annually through 2040.
While Japan is currently the largest LNG consumer, China has the fastest growing demand. Its demand grew by 1 billion cubic feet per day in 2017. A big driver for China, as well as India and other Asian countries, is that replacing coal with gas in power production reduces air pollution and greenhouse emissions. It also allows these countries to diversify supplies and be less reliant one source.
This is especially important in Europe, which has historically been overdependent on Russia for its gas supplies. Russia has a history of weaponizing its gas on neighbors. Nowhere is this truer than in the Ukraine. U.S. exports can help offset this threat.
The Trump administration has repeatedly discussed the strategic geopolitical and national security implications of U.S. energy dominance and LNG exports. Administration officials and the president have described the importance of LNG exports regarding Russia, China, South Korea and Europe. This strategic importance is well understood in the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council.
It is important we all recognize the significant role U.S. energy and LNG exports play on the global stage and insist our policymakers support all related industries consistently and completely. Actions taken by government that threaten our energy revolution and our ability to competitively export LNG are not just a threat economically to the U.S. but to national security. It’s also a risk geopolitically.
Indeed, our government needs to formally declare the strategic importance of LNG exports and ensure all policies support our ability to grow this new and critically important industry.
Jack Belcher is executive vice president for HBW Resources and consults energy and transportation clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, situational risk management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also Managing Director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition.
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