Eight in 10 voters think American natural gas should be used in this country to power economic growth, according to a 2013 poll, compared with just 13% who think exporting it helps the economy more.
The majority is right: Affordable and abundant natural gas is powering a manufacturing resurgence, with companies seeking to invest more than $100 billion in new facilities, creating high-paying jobs this country needs. And despite recent spikes from winter demand, consumer prices are still manageable.
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All that will change if the oil and gas lobby gets its wish to send unlimited amounts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to countries that haven't signed free trade agreements with the United States. Costs to consumers and manufacturers will soar, hitting pocketbooks and halting the reshoring boom. The recent propane crisis paints the picture.
The propane crisis was driven by several factors, but exports played a big role, as the U.S. sent a record-high 20% of domestic supply overseas last fall. Supplies plunged to historic lows, and the tough winter sparked shortages, skyrocketing prices and suffering for families, farmers and businesses. A similar crisis in natural gas would be far more painful, as natural gas fuels millions more homes, farms and businesses than propane. This is what's at stake if we go too far, too fast with gas exports.
The U.S. government has already approved LNG exports of nearly 12% of our domestic production, but the oil and gas lobby wants more — four times more. That's too much.
We support free trade and helping allies, but the U.S. has only 5% of the world's gas resources, which isn't enough to be a major geopolitical factor. Ukraine and Europe have their own gas reserves, so let's export our technical know-how, not the gas itself.
And if others like China, India and Japan want to buy LNG, we should use that to pry open their markets to more U.S. cars, agriculture, medicines and other products. That creates more jobs here. Let's make a deal benefiting all Americans, not just gas-exporting companies and their investors.
Peter Huntsman, president and CEO of Huntsman Corp., writes on behalf of America's Energy Advantage, a coalition of manufacturers opposed to exporting liquefied natural gas.