By Ben Geman - 11/28/12 04:05 PM EST
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) suggested Wednesday that Congress should make clear that the United States supports expanded natural-gas exports.
The Louisiana Democrat, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, backs exports, but the panel’s incoming chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has been skeptical of them.
“I am a believer in exporting some of our gas,” she said.
The Energy Department is weighing a suite of proposals to export natural gas at a time of record U.S. production. Officials in the department are working on a closely watched — and delayed — economic analysis of the proposed exports.
But the idea faces skepticism from Wyden and some other lawmakers who fear that domestic manufacturers benefiting from low gas prices could be harmed by increased foreign sales.
Landrieu, whose state is home to both gas producers and gas-hungry chemical manufacturers, stressed that she’s mindful of the concerns of the manufacturing industry.
“My chemical folks don’t want to export any natural gas,” she said.
But Landrieu said that exports will help ensure a market for booming U.S. gas production, noting that if it’s not allowed, gas producers’ “incentive will decrease to the point where production will just fall off.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Energy Committee’s top Republican, voiced strong support for expanded natural-gas exports, saying it would be a major economic boost without hurting domestic industries.
“Exports of natural gas ... are not expected to play a significant role in setting prices here at home,” Murkowski said at the event, which was sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade group of natural-gas producers.
“Energy exports offer an opportunity to really tip the balance of trade in our favor for the first time in decades,” Murkowski said.
She noted the topic is likely to be front and center before lawmakers.
“I can guarantee you that the issue of export of [liquefied natural gas] will be ... up front as we discuss issues within the energy committee and beyond,” Murkowski said.