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Exporting natural gas will help US economy

The Great Recession that began at the end of this last decade has lingered like few others in recent history. Job growth has been sluggish, and unemployment numbers have ticked up only marginally, making this a painfully slow recovery. This is true in almost all sectors—except for energy. There, job growth has been nothing short of explosive. American innovation has allowed us to tap into energy resources previously off-limits and unreachable, creating jobs across the country.

The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has fundamentally changed the American energy landscape, allowing us to access enough natural gas to last for at least a century. As a result, this year the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that America surpassed Russia as the world's energy superpower. We are producing more oil and natural gas than any other country.

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As this boom drives our economic recovery, shifting dynamics across the globe reinforce the need to increase natural gas production even further. Ukraine and most of our European allies have long been held hostage by the fact that Russia remains their largest source of vital gas used to power their economies. Increased exports of American gas could cut Vladimir Putin off at the knees and increase American power.

Of course, any discussion of increasing our energy exports raises understandable questions. If we export our natural gas, what will happen to supply and price here at home? The fact is that study after study finds that we have so much gas under our feet in America that exports to our allies abroad will have little impact on our prices here at home.

One of the first things we can do to increase exports of natural gas to help our allies and our own economy is to streamline the export process. Right now, that process is longer and more complicated than it needs to be. The Obama Energy Department is moving at a glacial pace in approving liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals with over 20 applications on tap. The longest application has been sitting there for more 800 days. We can do better.

That's why I strongly support H.R. 6, a bill we are moving through the House Energy and Commerce Committee that would allow gas exports to be made without government approval to any of the more than 159 countries that belong to the World Trade Organization.  This would not exempt potential exporters from getting regulatory approval of their design and safety—it just cuts the worst of the red tape.

This common sense legislation would expedite the process of exporting US natural gas to our allies and weaken the stronghold that Russia has over Eastern Europe. Clearly, it would help with other close allies like India, South Korea and Japan as well. Our economy will greatly benefit from increased production of US energy for use at home and abroad. The US is a strong supporter of open markets and free trade policies.  It's a win win for democracy and energy security. 

Olson has represented Texas's 22nd Congressional District since 2009. He sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.