The Biden administration said it is delaying consideration of new natural gas export terminals in the United States as of Jan. 26, even as gas shipments to Asia and Europe have soared since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
President Joe Biden’s decision aligns the Democratic president—currently seeking reelection– with environmentalists, who fear the increased export of liquefied natural gas is going to create massive amounts of emissions when Biden has pledged to cut climate pollution in half by 2030.
While environmentalists cheered it as a way to address climate change and counter Biden’s approval of the huge Willow oil project in Alaska last year, industry groups and Republicans condemned the pause as a “win for Russia.”
Natural gas is used to heat homes and businesses, and is often produced in the United States by fracking. U.S. gas exports rose sharply after Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and the Biden administration celebrated this as a key geopolitical weapon against Russian President Vladimir Putin, allowing U.S. allies to use gas without relying on Russia.
While Biden has praised U.S. exports in the past, he has also faced strong criticism from environmental groups who worry about Biden's commitment to phasing out fossil fuels such as oil and gas. U.S. oil production has surged since Biden took office.
U.S. LNG capacity has doubled in recent years and is set to double again under projects already approved, the White House said. Current methods the Energy Department uses to evaluate LNG projects don’t adequately account for potential cost hikes for American consumers and manufacturers or the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, officials said.
The pause will allow officials to update the way the Energy Department analyzes LNG proposals to "avoid export authorizations that diminish our domestic energy availability, weaken our security or undermine our economy'' or the environment, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
Biden's action would not affect the seven LNG terminals in operation in Louisiana and Texas, with up to five more soon to be on the way. However, this pause could delay a dozen or more LNG projects that are pending or in various stages of planning. That includes the Calcasieu Pass 2 project, or CP2, along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast which would be the largest export terminal in the United States.
“Let me be clear. The U.S. is already the number one exporter of LNG, and we remain unwavering in our commitment to support our allies and partners around the world,″ Zaidi said Friday.
Granholm and other officials described the pause as lasting “some months,” but said officials will study how proposed LNG projects will affect the environment, the economy and national security.