No time to lose on LNG exports

The energy renaissance that has swept across America over the last few years has transformed the United States from an increasingly energy dependent nation – beholden to the whims of OPEC – to our current position as the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. This transformation has provided us with a historic and unprecedented opportunity; not just to bolster our economy, but to also fully leverage our energy abundance on the international stage by shipping a portion of our natural gas abroad. 

Thanks to technological advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, some experts estimate that my home state of Ohio could, on its own, have more accessible natural gas reserves than all of Saudi Arabia.  Through the abundance of natural gas, America has an opportunity to significantly affect geopolitics globally if we enact smart policies - it could be a game changer.  Allowing the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), for instance, will bring both significant jobs and wealth into the U.S., enhancing our energy security and providing a reliable source of fuel to our allies – some of whom depend on the mood of Vladimir Putin to meet their energy needs. 

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Unfortunately, our policies have not kept pace with the industry’s development. Companies seeking to export LNG face a constantly changing approval process which costs millions of dollars and takes years to navigate. Not only does this undermine regulatory certainty, but with dozens of projects seeking approval, Washington is delaying job creation at home, and the ability to positively influence global politics abroad. 

My bill, the “LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act,” aims to address this growing problem by cutting through the bureaucratic red tape and implementing a deadline on the Department of Energy (DOE) to issue a final decision on LNG export applications. Given the amount of time that has already passed since many of the LNG export applications have been filed and their dockets closed, there is no more information to consider and no reason for DOE not to adhere to a deadline. 

But, there is real risk to inactivity. If Washington waits too long to move forward with export licenses, other countries with their own natural gas resources – Canada, Qatar, Australia to name three – will step in to meet demand.  Our competitive advantage, along with the opportunity to create more domestic energy jobs, and serve as a check on Russia, will be lost. 

Numerous studies have found that LNG exports will create tens of thousands of American jobs, many of them within manufacturing – including the refining, petrochemicals and chemicals sectors. ICF  International estimates that these jobs will occur across the entire value chain, translating into roughly $1 billion in new wages for American workers over a six year period. Export terminals will also generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue for federal, state and local governments while increasing our GDP and lowering the trade deficit. 

It’s worth noting that this won’t come at the expense of domestic consumers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has stressed that it expects increased overseas demand for LNG will be met by the development of new resources. In fact, the DOE has concluded that each of the different export scenarios considered “are welfare improving for U.S. consumers” and would result in “an increase in U.S. households’ real income.” 

The recent turbulence in Eastern Europe - and throughout the Middle East - has shown all too clearly that energy can be used as a geopolitical tool. Adding a new and reliable source of natural gas onto the world market will diversify our allies’ energy sources, and greatly reduce their vulnerability to a single monopolistic supplier. 

I am proud to author legislation that could lead to such significant benefits for our economy, hardworking taxpayers, and allies. I expect this legislation to be approved by the House of Representatives in a broad, bipartisan show of support, and I’m hopeful that it will be considered by the Senate in the near future.  We have seen enough delay - now is the time to send a clear signal that Congress is committed to delivering the full benefits of our natural energy abundance to the American people. 

Johnson has represented Ohio’s 6th Congressional District since 2011. He sits on the Energy and Commerce and the Science, Space and Technology committees.