You may be surprised to learn that opportunity is already upon us.
Indeed, we can continue to use our abundant natural gas supplies to meet consumer and industry demand, as well as sell some to America’s trading partners. This will grow our economy, create thousands of new jobs, revitalize our manufacturing sector and expand our nation’s exports.
Equally important, natural gas exports will also allow us to increase domestic energy production, generating more public revenue for local, state and federal governments. And for the thousands of mineral owners who are benefitting from shale development across the country, this increased production means more royalty revenue, which means more saved farms and more paid off debts.
Without question, though, the biggest opportunity comes in the form of job creation. According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, each $1 billion worth of exports creates more than 6,000 new jobs. When put in the context of selling natural gas, that translates into anywhere from 75,000 to 150,000 new jobs.
Moreover, a recent study by IHS-CERA found that natural gas development from shale supported one million jobs in the United States in 2010, a number that could grow to nearly 2.5 million by 2035. Selling natural gas to our trading partners would only enhance this strong record of job creation.
Another component is the impact on our country’s international trade. Selling natural gas overseas would allow the United States to expand exports while bringing more dollars back into the United States for new investments in American jobs, businesses, and manufacturing.
As Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said, “If we are buying, that is wealth out of the country. If we are selling, that’s wealth into the country.”
A third benefit is energy security. A recent study by the Baker Institute at Rice University recommended policies to “ensure that shale gas can play a significant role in the U.S. and global energy mix,” which will in turn contribute “to the long-term national interests of the United States.” Selling natural gas to help out important allies – including Japan, which is undergoing an energy crisis – means more dollars flowing back into the United States, which in turn means improved economic and energy security.
On the domestic manufacturing front, exporting natural gas will require billions of dollars in new investments in American-manufactured goods like steel, turbines, pipeline equipment and the natural gas refrigeration – or liquefaction – plants needed to cool natural gas into liquefied natural gas, or LNG, before it can be transported by ocean-going tankers. Expanded natural gas production will also yield associated natural gas liquids (NGLs), which are a critical feedstock for the chemical and fertilizer industries.
Each liquefaction plant alone represents a multi-billion dollar investment that will support as many as 9,000 American jobs, expand America’s manufacturing capacity and broaden the skill base of America’s manufacturing workforce.
Our abundant natural gas supplies are already delivering enormous benefits, from consumer savings and an expanding industrial base to a cleaner environment for all of us. Yet there are some who suggest we should not increase our exports, or who want to place an arbitrary cap on the amount of natural gas we can sell to our allies. We have a transformational opportunity to create even more jobs and boost our economy even further, all without sacrificing the gains we’ve already made. Why would we choose to limit our ability to take advantage of that?
With an unemployment rate and trade deficit that have remained too high for too long, we owe it to ourselves to embrace this opportunity.
Cooper is the president of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas (CLNG).