US energy independence. You probably have heard the phrase thrown around in recent months as much as the many countless political promises during campaign season. The problem is we “could” very well have the means to be truly self-sufficient when it comes to energy production. So why the heck are we hearing so much talk about exporting natural gas at a time when, despite a natural gas boom here at home, we still consume more natural gas than we produce?
Advances in technology have done wonders for the fracking industry and there is no question the US is now swimming in gas as a result. Yes there are still environmental concerns which in some cases are more than warranted and I would never suggest swapping clean drinking water or the air we breathe to simply lower our dependence on foreign sources of oil. Yet, I have a lot of faith that the very technology that has drastically allowed for access to domestic energy sources can also show a progression that also decreases the very serious environmental fears many still have. A future where domestic natural gas production can be safer has me thinking the US would be foolish to begin exporting a commodity that if left stateside could go a long way to keeping a much needed lid on energy prices.
There is an argument supported by many E&P players that exporting liquified natural gas (LNG) is in the interest of the US. My issue with that sort of stance really comes down to the this, by the US do they mean the companies that are actually doing the exporting or the American consumers? Certainly from a business perspective, LNG can be lucrative in a global market so producers will reap the benefit from demand. However, if exporting LNG helps remove the glut of natural gas here at home, prices of natural gas will most definitely lift from 40-year lows. That means the exporting of LNG, which is produced in our very own backyard, will actually punish the American consumer.
Think about this, if the US is beginning to swap a dependence of crude oil with a new dependence on natural gas, consumers could be forced to adjust discretionary spending since the expected greater application of natural gas in residential homes and as a vehicular fuel source will lift prices like a helium balloon. So if the US doesn’t get much more serious about looking into alternatives such as offshore wind and advanced nuclear reactors while natural gas is still at 40-year lows, the very thought of exporting natural gas may actually be a grave mistake. This view would further be supported as the US population grows, cleaner residential/industrial energy demand rise further and more natural gas becomes utilized for the transportation sector. Therefore despite what we are being told about becoming “energy independent”, exporting US natural gas may ultimately cause the country to import more foreign natural gas to satisfy domestic consumption needs. That’s not energy independence folks!
Natural gas money flame image provided by PennEnergy