The lawmakers were referring to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as well as U.S. pipeline infrastructure and investment culture.
Fracking has been credited with driving the domestic shale oil-and-gas boom. It involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals and sand into tight rock formations to tap hydrocarbons. Drillers in the United States were the first to perfect the process, though many others — such as China and Poland — are now attempting to do the same.
In all, 89 Republicans and 21 Democrats signed the letter, which had been in the works for about a week. Ohio Reps. Bill Johnson (R) and Tim Ryan (D) spearheaded the effort.
The lawmakers also addressed the misgivings some legislators and manufacturers have about exports’ impact on domestic natural gas prices.
But they pointed to an Energy Department-commissioned study that said LNG exports would yield a net economic benefit. They noted the study also said LNG processing and shipping costs would cool interest from would-be exporters, negating the gold-rush sort of frenzy some export skeptics anticipate.
A pair of senior Democrats — Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) — has aired qualms about the study. They worry expanding LNG exports too rapidly would raise domestic energy prices, undercutting manufacturers’ newfound competitiveness in the process.
The head of Royal Dutch Shell — the world’s largest supplier of liquefied natural gas — echoed that sentiment in a Friday interview with Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“Exports will happen. But I hope that the U.S. will actually keep most of the gas back because it will help them to industrialize parts of the U.S. more,” said Shell CEO Peter Voser, who added his firm is considering constructing a U.S. export terminal.
The comment touches on a rift between manufacturers on the nation’s gas-exporting future.
Several business groups that wield considerable Washington clout want to expand exports, calling it an economic boon. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Manufacturers are just a few of the organizations urging the White House to allow more sales overseas.
But a handful of large manufacturers have split from that formidable bloc, and are calling for export restraint.
That group, known as America’s Energy Advantage, includes Dow Chemical, Alcoa and a handful of other manufacturers.
Sharing in Voser’s concerns, those firms worry sending too much LNG abroad will raise domestic energy prices.