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* Group to launch web site, outreach to policymakers, public
* Rising US shale gas output has raised prospect of exports
* Opponents say exports could hurt consumers, manufacturers
* DOE has delayed decisions on pending export applications
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Oct 21 Backers of liquefied natural
gas will launch the first major campaign on Monday to press
lawmakers to allow the sale of more U.S. gas abroad, as the
industry push for exports intensifies.
The effort by the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas will
include a new web site and outreach aimed at policymakers and
the public, making the case that selling the nation's surplus
natural gas to foreign countries will yield significant economic
benefits and not drastically raise prices.
"There is a lot of stranded investment waiting to be
unleashed in these projects that would pour billions of dollars
into local and national economies, if the regulatory process
would be freed up and allowed to move forward," Bill Cooper, the
head of the LNG trade group, told Reuters.
President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger for the
presidency, Mitt Romney, have both lauded the boom in U.S. shale
oil and gas production as a critical component of moving the
country toward "energy independence."
But, the winner of the Nov. 6 election will have to contend
with concerns about how to manage this newfound energy wealth.
While federal law allows exports of natural gas, the Energy
Department has to determine whether expanded exports are in the
national interest. Only one export terminal has been approved
but decisions on about 10 applications have been delayed till a
review on the implications of exports is completed.
Critics have argued the nation's vast gas reserves offer a
strategic advantage that should be used to bolster U.S.
industry, and exporting gas will hurt manufacturers currently
experiencing a resurgence due to cheap energy costs.
While the initiative is not directed at influencing the
election campaign, the LNG group hopes it will help to combat
calls to limit exports and will speed up the stalled permitting
"The markets will react faster and impose limitations upon
exports more efficiently than a regulator ever could," Cooper
Gas drillers contend that the current low natural gas prices
are not sustainable and U.S. gas output will curtailed without
exports, as production outpaces demand.
While some lawmakers have weighed in on the debate on gas
exports, the isssue has not necessarily risen to prominence on
the campaign trail or in Congress yet, with only one hearing on
the topic so far.
Initially, some in Congress seemed reluctant to take a
strong position on a matter pitting manufacturers against the
oil and gas industry.
DE FACTO MORATORIUM?
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with
free trade agreements with the United States require approval
from the Energy Department.
After allowing gas exports from one project, Cheniere's
Sabine Pass terminal, the Obama administration has put
off approving any more applications pending the outcome of an
That study, commissioned by the administration to evaluate
the potential effects of LNG exports, has been delayed
repeatedly and is now expected to be released by the end of the
Cooper said the department's delays amount to a de facto
moratorium on exports. He said he hopes the new initiative will
push the department to issue the study and to move forward on
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)