President Joe Biden’s administration has opted to delay the consideration of new natural gas export terminals in the United States, despite a surge in gas shipments to Europe and Asia following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This decision, made during an election year, reflects the administration’s alignment with environmentalists who worry that a significant rise in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports could contribute to catastrophic planet-warming emissions. President Biden, committed to reducing climate pollution by half by 2030, emphasized the need to address the urgency of the climate crisis.
In a statement, Biden stated, “While MAGA Republicans willfully deny the urgency of the climate crisis, condemning the American people to a dangerous future, my administration will not be complacent. We will not cede to special interests. We will heed the calls of young people and frontline communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act.” According to AP News
The White House pointed out that the current economic and environmental analyses used by the Energy Department for evaluating LNG projects do not adequately consider potential cost increases for American consumers and manufacturers or the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
While industry groups criticized the delay as a “win for Russia,” environmentalists celebrated it as a move against the backdrop of President Biden’s approval of the controversial Willow oil project in Alaska last year. Environmental activist Bill McKibben noted the strategic aspect of Biden’s decision to gain support from young people concerned about climate issues.
The proposed LNG export terminal in Louisiana mentioned as part of the delayed projects, was highlighted for potentially producing about 20 times the greenhouse gas emissions of the Willow project. The duration of the permitting pause remains undisclosed, but officials mentioned a comprehensive study on the environmental, economic, and national security impact of proposed LNG projects, which will take several months. A public comment period will further delay decisions on pending LNG projects, likely extending beyond the 2024 presidential election.
Since the commencement of U.S. LNG exports less than a decade ago, the country has become the world’s largest gas exporter, with exports surging notably after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Critics, including the American Petroleum Institute, argue that the delay harms U.S. allies, jobs, and global climate progress. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm assured that the pause would not affect already authorized exports or the ability to supply allies in Europe and Asia, and exceptions could be made for national security needs.
Environmental consultant Jeremy Symons considered Biden’s decision a “game-changer” in the fight against climate change, signaling a shift away from massive fossil fuel projects escaping federal scrutiny. Activists have targeted projects like the $10 billion Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2) project in Louisiana, emphasizing its potential negative impact on the nation’s environment, health, and economy. The project’s spokesperson expressed concerns about creating uncertainty regarding U.S. LNG reliability for allies if a prolonged pause occurs, describing potential shocks to the global energy market and signaling a loss of reliance on the United States.