Producing and exporting more US gas helps Putin
Vladimir Putin’s horrific war against the Ukrainian people has all of us talking about how to prevent him—and other fossil fuel autocrats—from holding the global economy hostage as he funds his war machine. In response, the fossil fuel industry is attempting to convince lawmakers and the public that the solution is more fossil fuels.
This is a lie. Increasing our economy’s dependence on fossil fuel increases our exposure to fossil fuel volatility. The industry doesn’t want to export U.S. supply to Europe for humanitarian reasons—it wants more access to a higher priced market. Fossil fuel executives and the conservative politicians they bankroll want to exploit a tragic situation for profit. Americans deserve the truth. The truth is, there is only one solution: doubling down on our transition to clean, cheap American-made energy.
Putin’s power comes from the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Russia is a petrostate, and fossil fuels are funding Putin’s war crimes. Putin created market turmoil by reducing gas flows to the EU by 25 percent from levels one year ago and, as he expected, European methane gas prices surged more than 400 percent.
U.S. oil and gas companies claim the solution is more production. But we can’t build those assets quick enough to displace Russian supply. Design and construction times are measured in years, not hours. According to industry analysts, it typically takes four to five years to build new export terminals.
And let’s be honest: Russia would love nothing more than for the U.S. to become more economically dependent on a commodity that empowers Russian oligarchs. Our citizens, and indeed the world, deserve a foreign policy that puts the interests of the United States over those of Vladimir Putin.
Moreover, the U.S is already the world’s leading exporter of liquefied natural gas. Our gas exports have grown rapidly since the first LNG cargo was shipped from the lower 48 states in 2016. And the U.S. will remain the world’s largest exporter through 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
President Biden’s recent announcement means that every operating LNG export terminal can export its full capacity. As Energy Sec. Granholm explained this week, “the U.S. is exporting every molecule of liquified natural gas that we can to alleviate supply issues in Europe.” To suggest we can flip a switch and create more export capacity is deceptive. The only LNG export terminal currently under full construction will not be online until 2024.
Even fossil fuel investors are not eager to build new gas export terminals. Of the 21 proposed U.S. export terminals, 18 appear to lack direct project finance, and “[n]o proposed US LNG export terminals reached final investment decisions (FIDs) or advanced to the construction phase in 2021.” LNG investments have been characterized as “fundamentally unsustainable . . . in light of cleaner, more economically viable renewable energy alternatives.”
Conversely, investments in renewable energy generate roughly three times more direct and indirect jobs than comparable investment in fossil fuels. The U.S. can create 25 million new jobs by 2035 by investing in projects that cut carbon pollution using existing technologies. Building a 90% clean grid can support more than 500,000 jobs each year, many of which are family-sustaining union jobs. And renewable energy plus battery storage is increasingly cheaper than gas, and, unlike fossil fuels, consumers can count on predictably low costs over time.
Producing and exporting gas from the U.S. also is really bad for the climate, because gas is just as dirty as coal, if not dirtier. For this reason, the International Energy Agency has cautioned, meeting our climate goals to limit global warming to 1.5°C requires that “no new [gas] fields or export projects are developed[.]”
Finally, exporting U.S. gas to international buyers drives up domestic energy prices for all of us, with some Americans seeing increases of more than 90 percent. So long as our country depends on this volatile fossil fuel, Americans will continue to be subject to wild price fluctuations.
Every day we fail to reach an agreement on the baseline climate investments passed by the House is a day Americans pay the price and fossil fuel autocrats profit.
That’s why I led nearly 90 of my colleagues in calling on President Biden to restart negotiations to enact cost-saving clean energy investments as the path forward to deliver tangible results to the American people.
What we’re seeing in Ukraine makes clear that our transition to clean energy isn’t just necessary to protect against climate devastation. Preventing wars and protecting our national security demands investments in clean energy. American energy independence demands investments in clean energy. Lowering costs demands investments in clean energy.
Fossil fuels aren’t the solution. Fossil fuels created this chaos. It’s time we disarm petro-dictators by preparing our nation to lead the world in a clean energy future.
Casten represents the 6th District of Illinois and is a member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.