Exporting American natural gas boosts economy and national security

The United States has nearly a 100-year supply of natural gas and this year will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the largest producer of natural gas and petroleum in the world. As a result of increased production, the price of U.S. natural gas has fallen over the last few years, making it competitive in the global market place. This presents an opportunity to export U.S. natural gas, bolster our strategic alliances, reduce our trade deficit and create jobs right here at home.

In fact, U.S. natural gas production has already made an impact. Supplies previously destined for our shores, but no longer needed as a result of increased production, were diverted elsewhere. This increase in global supply has put pressure on contracts indexed to the price of oil, which has helped several European countries successfully renegotiate their long-term contracts with Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned monopoly.

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Unfortunately, the law governing — and in this case, preventing — the Unites States from reaping the economic and geopolitical benefits of increased domestic natural gas production through exports was enacted 75 years ago. Our current law restricts our ability to export natural gas and reach markets hungry for U.S. energy resources.

Companies seeking to export natural gas to non-Free Trade Agreement countries are subject to a lengthy regulatory process. The Department of Energy has approved only four applications over the last several years, and approximately 20 still sit pending. In this case, our regulatory obstacles hinder the U.S. from selling natural gas to consumers willing and eager to buy.

Many of our allies rely heavily upon a single source or unstable regions for natural gas, which has led to supply interruptions, lengthy and overpriced contracts and an absence of market-based principles.

Russia has used its European market dominance to influence other countries. For example, in 2006 and 2009, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe over various disputes. Poland is so eager to wean itself off Russia for natural gas that it plans to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar at a price estimated to be 40 to 50 percent higher than the rate charged by Gazprom. The European Union has also been investigating Gazprom over anti-competitive actions and could soon file antitrust charges against the company.

Reliance on the Middle East and North Africa has also raised complications. Turkey receives 20 percent of its natural gas from Iran. Earlier this year, Islamist militants attacked a natural gas facility in Algeria, which is the third largest exporter of natural gas to Europe.

Japan, a critical security partner in Asia and the world’s largest importer of natural gas, has increased natural gas imports as a result of its 2011 nuclear plant disaster. Last year, Japan relied upon Russia, the Middle East and North Africa for nearly 50 percent of its natural gas imports.

Increasing natural gas exports to our allies would provide them with an alternative and reliable source of energy and inject market-based principles into the market, helping to strengthen our economic and geopolitical relationships.

That is why I have introduced bipartisan and bicameral legislation, the Expedited LNG for American Allies Act, to expedite the natural gas export license process for NATO countries and Japan. The measure also expedites the permit process for other countries if it would be in our national security interests.

Enhancing global energy security through increased U.S. natural gas exports will strengthen U.S. security partnerships, bolster our national security, help our economy and create jobs for American workers.

Turner has represented Ohio’s 10th Congressional District since 2003. He sits on the Oversight and Government Reform, and Armed Services committees and is chairman of the Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee. He is also chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.