Monday, December 17, 2012
Exporting Natural Gas?
Production from shale gas fields has swelled American reserves and driven down prices by two-thirds since 2008. American natural gas is now among the cheapest fuels anywhere in the world and costs as little as one-fourth of what the fuel sells for in Europe and Asia.
The export of gas in liquefied form could provide a $47 billion boost to the economy by 2020, including the construction of gas terminals. Exports would also help to lower emissions linked to global climate change by giving countries like India, China, Japan and Germany access to a cleaner energy source than coal.
Greater gas exports could also factor into American foreign policy. By offering countries like India and China access to cheap American gas, it could give the United States new leverage in trade negotiations.
The main opposition comes from chemical and fertilizer companies that are big users of natural gas, and from consumers who fear higher prices. With more gas headed to foreign shores, domestic supplies of the fuel are expected to fall, driving up its price. But prices would still be well below their 2008 levels, and they would rise only gradually, over the course of several years. A second objection comes mainly from some environmental groups that regard fracturing, the technique used to extract gas from deep shale formations, as environmentally dangerous. These concerns are best addressed by much tighter regulation of gas production, not by restricting exports.
About 15 new liquefied natural gas terminals have been proposed by the industry. Of these, four are scheduled to receive regulatory decisions in 2013. (NYT, 12/15/2012)