DOE nominee open to reviewing natural-gas export study

In his comments, he was referring to a December DOE-commissioned study by NERA Economic Consulting that said boosting natural-gas exports would yield a net economic win for the U.S.

Some Democrats, including committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), have questioned the study. They say it used outdated information in its analysis.

In response to a question from Wyden on whether Moniz would take a closer look at that study, the physicist said, “We certainly want to make sure we are using data that is relevant to the decision at hand.”

The topic of natural gas exports is attracting much congressional attention, as federal law makes it difficult to ship a glut of natural gas to most nations.

Democrats fear increasing exports would raise domestic natural gas prices, undercutting the manufacturing industry in the process — though the NERA study Moniz alluded to said price jumps would be modest.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) pressed Moniz on that issue. With a nod to her state’s manufacturing base, she said, “Getting this right is incredibly important for the American economy.”

But the NERA study was a key victory for proponents of exporting more natural gas, who say doing so will add jobs and buoy federal revenues.

Export backers — mainly Republicans and business groups — say the study’s positive economic grade satisfied a law that says sending natural gas to nations that lack a free-trade agreement with the U.S. must be in the national interest.

Under federal law, deals to such countries face greater scrutiny than those with nations that have a free-trade arrangement with the U.S. The DOE has only green-lighted one such application, with 20 pending.