Dem in line for energy gavel says nation must reconsider natural gas exports

Wyden might seek to make fossil fuel exports a key issue next Congress if Democrats retain the Senate, an outcome that would likely make him chairman of Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The senator has repeatedly raised concerns about exporting fossil fuels, sending several letters to the Obama administration on the subject.

The issue hits home for Wyden. Five proposed terminals in Oregon and Washington would export coal to Asia, and the Pacific Northwest could serve as a launching point for natural gas exports as well.

Wyden and other Democrats fear the U.S. is exporting greenhouse gas emissions along with the fuel, making it harder to combat global climate change. They also want more studies on the environmental effects of the unconventional drilling methods used to tap natural gas.

On top of that, Wyden and congressional Democrats have said the U.S. might shortchange its newfound domestic energy security with increased exports. They say the sales would increase natural gas prices, undercutting the manufacturing industry’s competitive position.

Energy companies, along with lawmakers from both parties, have lobbied the administration to approve natural gas exports.

They say the economic benefits from exporting outweigh what would be a minimal price increase in domestic natural gas. Proponents of the exports also argue that the price increase might benefit the industry by reducing market volatility.