Moniz vows review of gas exports

New Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz vowed Tuesday to take a fresh look at analyses of the effects of exporting natural gas, carrying out a pledge he made to a top Democratic senator.

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His plan adds a new layer to the Department of Energy's review of an array of industry applications that together would substantially expand U.S. liquefied natural gas exports.

“Going forward, as I said in my [Senate] confirmation hearing, I am certainly committed to doing a review of what’s out there in terms of impact analyses,” Moniz told reporters after giving his first speech in the new job.

“I want to do, as I promised to Chairman Wyden, to make sure that we are using up-to-date data and then we want to go forward on a case-by-case basis ... in terms of evaluating licenses in as expeditious a way [possible], consistent with that review process,” added Moniz, who was sworn-in Tuesday morning.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) fears that a major export expansion could raise prices for consumers and manufacturers that rely on the fuel.

A major DOE-commissioned study on potential exports, completed in 2012, concluded the effect on prices would be quite modest and that, overall, exports are an economic win. But Wyden has questioned the study.

DOE last week approved its second industry application to export gas to nations that lack a formal free-trade deal with the U.S. Those proposals receive closer scrutiny. It was the first such approval since 2011.

Business and industry groups are hopeful a number of new approvals for exports to countries without formal trade deals are now in the offing.

Moniz, when serving until recently as head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, took a bullish view of natural gas development and exports.

On Tuesday he suggested that DOE would not need to order fresh studies of exports, but didn’t rule it out either.

“Right now we have no plans of commissioning new studies, but everything is on the table until I have done my analysis,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a major Washington, D.C. energy efficiency conference.

He said his review would look at the existing studies that inform DOE’s consideration of gas export applications.

“I want to review those personally, that is my commitment to Chairman Wyden, I want to look at the issues of making sure . . . current data, as needed, are used,” he said.

He said it was uncertain when the next decisions on export applications would arrive.