Pausing LNG export approvals will carry long-term risks for our allies and ability to meet global climate goals

The Biden Administration’s pause on LNG exports will place our allies at the mercy of authoritarian regimes and won’t advance the fight against climate change

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has paused approvals of liquified natural gas (LNG) export facilities, injecting insecurity into global energy markets and jeopardizing the goals of the landmark COP28 climate agreement signed in December. That agreement recognized that natural gas is essential to the worldwide energy transition by providing a cleaner fuel source than coal while providing critical energy security.  

Unfortunately, this decision is not based on science and will have unintended impacts on the climate. It will also cut off our allies as they seek secure, less carbon-intensive energy sources to keep their lights on. The Washington Post Editorial Board sees this decision for what it is, "It's an election-year sop to climate activists that will do much more to unsettle vital US alliances than to save the planet." 

Pausing LNG exports will resurface global energy insecurity 

The rise of global instability in recent years has shown that the world lacks sufficient access to reliable, affordable, and cleaner sources that can adequately replace coal power generation, the largest source of power-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If we restrict our gas exports, we'll leave our allies vulnerable to dirtier forms of energy, such as coal, and to many of the worst actors on the world stage.  

Two-thirds of the world's economically recoverable gas is in just four countries: Russia, Iran, Qatar, and the U.S. When Russia weaponized its reserves after invading Ukraine – beginning with cutting off its gas supply to Europe – the U.S. quickly stepped forward and supplied LNG to replace methane-intensive Russian gas. This support to our allies accounted for 40% of EU LNG imports in 2022. The New York Times reported that European allies are worried that this decision can undermine their progress to wean themselves off Russian gas.  

The Biden Administration's pause on LNG exports has the potential to resurface the kind of global energy instability we saw following the war in Ukraine. If we restrict our gas exports, our allies will be at the mercy of authoritarian regimes like Putin's.  

Increasing LNG exports helps keep energy prices low at home and abroad 

PAGE and its members share the DOE's goal of ensuring affordable and stable energy prices for Americans. However, the pause of LNG exports could devastate the buildout of much-needed infrastructure to ensure Americans have reliable access to energy.  

The conjecture that LNG exports drive up US energy prices is also inaccurate. According to the Center for Strategic and International Affairs (CSIS),increased U.S. LNG exports have not affected energy prices at home over the past five years.  

LNG can help phase out foreign coal and achieve our climate goals 

U.S. LNG also helped stabilize gas and electricity prices for customers in Europe. A pause or restriction of U.S. LNG capabilities risks destabilizing gas markets in Europe and beyond, undoing years of responsible energy policy.  

Halting LNG exports will likely result in a continued increase in foreign coal. In 2021, coal accounted for 44% of emissions from fuel combustion while only comprising 27% of the total energy supply. By comparison, gas' share (22%) was lower than its supply (24%). 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) also reports that coal production is responsible for more methane than gas. Chinese coal production alone emits 15% of the world's energy-sector methane. This dwarfs LNG liquefaction and shipping methane emissions, which comprise just 0.3%. Meanwhile, Germany and other EU members have activated once-dormant coal plants to ensure their economies have enough energy to support their citizens during peak demand this winter. 

The pause of LNG exports will only exacerbate this trend and likely make achieving the targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement unfeasible.  

The Bottom Line 

Energy security, cost, and climate action are all critical factors for achieving a sustainable global energy transition. Meeting a strict regulatory process and being produced and transported by responsible companies, U.S. natural gas is the only pragmatic solution to stabilize the energy landscape.  

The Partnership to Address Global Emissions (PAGE) strongly opposes the Biden Administration's unfortunate decision and vows to continue fighting for responsible energy policies that protect national security and advance climate solutions.  

Bipartisan event confirms natural gas is an integral part of the clean energy transition

Permitting reform can unlock the potential of U.S. LNG to achieve our collective energy and climate goals

At COP28 in Dubai, the Partnership to Address Global Emissions (PAGE) spread awareness about natural gas’ potential to decarbonize the world by replacing dirty coal-fired power plants.  

These efforts had an impact as world leaders, for the first time, called for investment in transition fuels, such as natural gas, among other priorities in addressing climate change. In fact, the final agreement that leaders forged acknowledges this directly, recognizing “that transitional fuels can play a role in facilitating the energy transition while ensuring energy security.”   

After COP28 solidified the consensus for pragmatic decarbonization, Congressional, industry, and labor leaders convened in Washington D.C. to discuss the action needed by the U.S. to meet their global obligations to reduce emissions. Through a panel discussion focused on “Perspectives from COP28: A Monumental Moment to Reach Climate Goals,” permitting reform was highlighted as the key to unlocking the potential of U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) to provide energy security and achieve our collective climate goals.  

Natural gas as a clean energy solution 

Some advocates have argued that renewables are the only solution for reducing emissions. While renewables are noteworthy successes, they cannot generate the baseload energy we need without support from more reliable energy sources such as natural gas. Scott Peters (D-CA) agrees that “the promise to eliminate fossil fuels is aspirational, not operational” and that we need to focus on reducing emissions through a pragmatic approach. 

Natural gas can complement and is critical in assisting the buildout of renewables. As Toby Rice, President and CEO of EQT noted, “people are recognizing that wind and solar are not enough. They are great solutions, but they need heavyweight support. And the heavyweight support is natural gas replacing foreign coal.” 

The environmental benefits of coal-to-gas switching are clear. Natural gas produces half the amount of CO2 per unit of energy than coal does when burned, making it an ideal near-term energy solution. John Curtis (R-UT) recognizes these benefits, stating that “until we turn our discussion to reducing emissions and not reducing choices, you’re just not going to make progress.” 

In fact, the U.S. has experienced a remarkable 17% decline in GHG emissions over the past 15 years, with 65% of all power sector emissions reductions due to coal-to-gas-switching. But we cannot achieve our global climate goals without replacing the dirtiest coal plants worldwide, which is why we must look beyond our borders and export more LNG to our allies in need.  

According to Alan Armstrong, President and CEO of Williams, “our goal should be to reduce emissions and that is what we are focused on across the pipeline industry and the gas production industry. It’s clear that natural gas, in partnership with renewables and alongside bipartisan permitting reform, is key to a lower-carbon energy system.” 

The rise of coal power generation 

The rise of global coal use makes U.S. LNG exports even more imperative. In 2022, global coal consumption rose by 3.3% to 8.3 billion tonnes, a new all-time high. China and India have seen the most significant increase in coal use, while several European countries have reopened once dormant coal plants to ensure they have enough energy for the winter. 

Without U.S. LNG, our allies will be forced to rely on energy resources from less stable and undemocratic energy hubs such as China, Russia, Iran, and Qatar. This not only is a direct threat to our allies, but it also jeopardizes our own national security. To maintain energy superiority over our adversaries, we’re going to need permitting reform to revamp our production capabilities. 

We need permitting reform to achieve our energy and climate goals 

“Permitting reform is going to be absolutely critical for achieving all these goals that we’re talking about,” says Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. That’s because today energy projects can take years to receive approval, and endless red tape and lawsuits are further delaying and even sometimes preventing the development of critical pipeline infrastructure all together.  

This puts us “at a competitive disadvantage” says David Valadao (R-CA) and makes it “impossible for us to produce because either our energy prices are too high, or we just can’t get the energy to those factories.” 

We need Washington to finally prioritize permitting reform so we’re able to provide the energy our allies around the world desperately need. “Permitting reform cannot be partisan and it should not be partisan,” argues Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA). “We need to move forward quickly on that issue as well as talking about grid reliability.” And “if we don’t have permitting reform,” says Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), “if we don’t have infrastructure built for the transmission lines, it doesn’t matter everything else that we’re doing.”  

The solution to addressing the climate crisis and restoring energy security is at our fingertips, we just need to utilize our resources. “There’s an urgency to this that we need to underscore,” says Mary Landrieu (D-LA).” There are a lot of good ideas on the table, but we must do this on a scale and at a speed never been done before. This is about American leadership, and this is about Congressional leadership.” 

Obama-era Energy Secretary: Natural gas is the ‘logical’ global energy transition plan

COP28 wrapped up in Dubai, burdened by an undeniable truth: the world is still not on pace to successfully limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Fortunately, world leaders were open to pragmatic solutions and recognized that natural gas has a role in achieving the goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. Among those proponents was Obama-era Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who said natural gas is the "logical" clean energy transition plan.  

While some advocates have argued that renewables are the only solution for reducing emissions, the fact remains that they currently cannot generate the baseload energy that we need. As long as battery storage and transmission infrastructure challenges remain, renewables will remain a part of the solution, not the whole solution. 

"If the world's top 5% worst emitting coal-power plants switched to natural gas, it would reduce global power sector emissions by 30%."

At COP28, world leaders recognized that natural gas and renewables must complement each other to maintain energy security while working to transition to renewables and continue to provide the public with clean, affordable and reliable energy.  

Coal-to-Gas Switching at Home

The US has provided a model showing that low-carbon natural gas is a pivotal part of the global energy transition. This strategy involves expanding natural gas production while simultaneously phasing out coal power plants. The environmental benefits are clear – natural gas produces half the amount of CO2 per unit of energy than coal does when burned, making it an ideal near-term energy solution. 

The results have been exceptional over the last two decades, with the US achieving a historic 17% decline in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by switching from coal to natural gas while producing unprecedented cost savings for consumers. 

Furthermore, 65% of all US power generation emissions reductions over the last 15 years were driven by coal-to-gas switching. While this solution has led to significant emissions reductions at home, we need to look beyond our borders and export liquified natural gas (LNG) so we can replace the dirtiest coal-fired power plants worldwide. 

Export LNG to Reduce Emissions on a Global Scale

The need for cleaner natural gas on a global scale has never been more critical. Global coal consumption reached a new all-time high in 2022, increasing by 3.3% to 8.3 billion tons. 

Coal consumption is also responsible for about 40% of global GHG emissions, and supply chain and geopolitical challenges caused demand to increase by approximately 1.5% in the first half of 2023. Europe's energy crisis showed that countries are willing to revert to higher-emitting sources at the expense of cleaner options to stabilize energy flows. 

Remarkably, if the world's top 5% worst emitting coal-power plants switched to natural gas, it would reduce global power sector emissions by 30%. If that switch incorporates carbon capture and storage, this reduction would increase to nearly 50%.

Taking on Methane Emissions

Coal-to-gas switching would also put a significant dent in global methane emissions. According to Paul Bledsoe of the Progressive Policy Institute, "limiting methane will reduce near-term temperatures far more than any other action." 

Methane reduction is critical in countries like China, the world's largest coal producer, whose coal mines are responsible for over 15% of global energy sector methane emissions. Dirty plants like these must be replaced with a low-carbon alternative, and natural gas is the ideal solution. 

The good news is that the US natural gas industry is serious about reducing methane emissions and recognizes that this will further unlock natural gas's potential as a global climate solution. 

At COP28, 50 energy companies, including a Partnership to Address Global Emissions member, signed onto the Oil and Gas Decarbonization Charter to push methane abatement and other emissions reduction efforts across the industry. Alan Armstrong, CEO and President of Williams, said his company is "rapidly going after methane," having reduced its methane emissions by 16.5% in 2022.

The Missing Link: Reforming US Permitting Policies

For far too long, energy companies were excluded from conversations about solutions to address climate change. But COP28 gave the industry a seat at the table, allowing an opportunity to highlight the logic behind natural gas – it is the key to a successful global energy transition AND energy security. 

We must harness this momentum and urge policymakers in Washington to back permitting reform and expedite the approval process for long-awaited pipeline infrastructure. 

The US has the resources and can export enough LNG to the rest of the world to make achieving the Paris climate agreement a reality.

New Reports Show US Natural Gas Will Be Critical to the Success of Renewable Energy

According to two new reports, natural gas will be critical in transitioning to a clean energy future.  

Research by consulting firm McKinsey & Company shows that natural gas has been – and will continue to be – vital to decarbonizing the US power supply while supporting renewables.  

Meanwhile, think tank Ember provides evidence that countries like China are overwhelmingly turning to highly polluting coal because of recent shortfalls in renewable energy production, particularly with the decreasing reliability of hydropower.  

Fortunately, the US has the resources and the know-how to decarbonize quickly. Since 1990, the US has decreased its CO2 emissions by 8% and can lead the way in helping the rest of the world achieve its climate goals. 

By increasing the export of US natural gas abroad via LNG, we can expand a proven decarbonization solution that will smooth the ups and downs of energy reliability as we transition to a renewable future.  

… natural gas is more reliable than renewables and helps to phase out the production of environmentally hazardous coal.

The benefits of clean natural gas vs coal 

Some environmentalists argue that renewables alone are the only path towards cleaner energy. While the rapid expansion of renewables is a noteworthy success story, renewables have clear limitations, including battery storage and transmission infrastructure problems.  

According to the McKinsey report, these challenges are causing renewables to produce only an "intermittent supply" of energy that cannot reliably match growing power demands.  

To generate the same amount of electricity as natural gas, solar fields require 10 to 20 times more land, while onshore wind needs up to 200 times more. Overall, significantly more significant investments will have to be made in the power grid to support the rollout of renewables. 

At the same time, natural gas is more nimble and can help phase out the production of environmentally hazardous coal. 

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the use of natural gas in the electric power sector increased by more than 100% between 2005 and 2022, while coal declined by about 55%. This shift from coal to natural gas has contributed to an 18% reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions in the US since 2005. 

This shift also reduced an estimated 532 million metric tons of CO2 over that same period, the most significant decarbonization lever to date, mitigating 10% of 2021 US GHG emissions. By comparison, renewable generation led to 248 million metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) – less than half of what coal-to-gas switching produced.  

With China being the world’s largest power producer, accounting for 31% of global generation, the environmental consequences of this rise in coal production will be devastating without a significant course correction.

Natural gas will power the transition to clean energy 

The global decline in hydropower demonstrates precisely why natural gas must be a part of the solution for cleaner energy.  

Research published by Ember found hydro generation, the largest electricity source among all renewables, fell by a historic 8.5% margin in the first half of 2023 due to adverse conditions. This decline was especially notable in China, which accounted for approximately 75% of the global decrease in hydropower.  

China began significantly expanding coal production to make up for the energy deficit. According to the Ember report, China's increase in coal generation between January and June 2023 exceeded 203 terawatt-hours (TWh) compared to that same period in 2022. Natural gas generation increased by just 10 TWh, while hydropower declined by 129 TWh.  

With China being the world's largest power producer, accounting for 31% of global generation, the environmental consequences of this rise in coal production will be devastating without a significant course correction. China emits the most energy-related CO2 emissions globally and could remain in that position through 2050 as it doubles down on coal power generation.  

Natural gas should fill the deficit left by coal 

Fortunately, natural gas provides the ideal solution – a cleaner and more reliable energy source that can make up for the deficit caused by the decline in global hydropower.  

According to the EIA, natural gas emits almost 50% less CO2 than coal while producing equal energy. The recent progress in emissions reduction in the US through coal-to-gas switching shows that this is a proven solution that can succeed in other regions, too.  

And the US's plentiful natural gas supply means we can lead this movement – securing cleaner, more reliable, and affordable energy for all.  

U.S. must double LNG exports to cut emissions, reduce global coal use

The continued reliance on burning coal to produce energy is undeniably the greatest obstacle to reaching our shared goals for reducing global emissions. With the dependence on coal reaching an all-time high in 2022, rapidly replacing it with cleaner fuel is the front line in the fight against climate change.

The U.S. has provided a model over the past 15 years for reducing emissions by replacing coal with much lower-carbon natural gas. Now, the question is whether that model can be exported to the rest of the world in time to cut emissions and stave off the worst effects of climate change.

While critics of natural gas defer to renewables as the only viable emissions solution, the truth is that the current state of battery storage and transmission infrastructure poses real obstacles to the buildout of renewables. Meanwhile, more power is generated globally with coal than any other fuel source. This persistence of coal, and its resulting emissions, will only continue if we adopt a renewables-or-bust approach.

But we can drastically slash emissions right now if we replace the dirtiest coal-fired power plants worldwide with natural gas. Gas burns far cleaner than coal and is more reliable than renewables, making it the best option to simultaneously achieve energy security, reliability, and emissions reductions. In fact, global power sector emissions would be reduced by 30% if the world’s top 5% worst emitting power plants switched to natural gas. Those emissions savings would increase to nearly 50% if that switch incorporated carbon capture and storage.

Federal policymakers in the U.S. could hold the keys to unleashing the LNG revolution we need. If policies were put in place to allow for increased natural gas production - while working to reduce its carbon footprint further - we could export the U.S.-made solution to lowering greenhouse gas emissions right away.

Global power sector emissions would be reduced by 30% if the world’s top 5% worst emitting power plants switched to natural gas. Those emissions savings would increase to nearly 50% if that switch incorporated carbon capture and storage.

The Environmental Benefits of Phasing Out Coal With LNG

The U.S. has already demonstrated the climate benefits of natural gas, with 65% of all power generation emission reductions over the past 15 years driven by coal-to-gas-switching. By replicating this solution worldwide through expanding U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, we can make the most significant dent in global emissions the world has ever seen.

Paul Bledsoe, a strategic advisor for the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), says, "Coal to LNG switching provides net GHG reductions, usually between 40-50%, meaning the extent of global emissions reductions from coal displacement will be in part determined by how much U.S. LNG reaches overseas coal-using nations."

Exporting American Gas to the World

The U.S. became the world's largest LNG exporter in 2022. Spurred by the war in Ukraine, American gas helped stabilize Europe's economy after Russia cut off the continent's primary energy supply. The environmental benefits of these exports were tremendous – not only did they help limit coal growth in Europe, but they also reduced the use of high-methane-leaking Russian gas.

But exporting American gas to Europe is just one part of the solution, as coal usage is more widespread in other markets. China, which had previously been on a path to phase out coal, accounts for 50% of today's global coal demand and 1/3 of total consumption, while India's coal use has more thandoubled since 2007.

Doubling LNG Exports and Increasing Domestic Production

According to a study published by PPI, the U.S. will need to double its LNG exports by 2028 to coal-dependent countries to encourage coal-to-gas switching. Doing this also requires increasing domestic production by at least 10% to keep prices low.

The solution is on our doorstep – the U.S. has the supply, but political will for new policies, such as comprehensive permitting reform, is needed to accelerate the development of domestic infrastructure required for increased LNG exports. By enacting policies that encourage the production and export of natural gas, the U.S. can become a global leader in energy security and decarbonization.

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