* New group includes Dow Chemical, Nucor Corp
* Unlimited exports would be "disastrous" - Dow official
* Top Senate Democrat also slams DOE export study
* Export supporters say coalition presents "false choice"
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Jan 10 U.S. industrial companies
whose costs have dropped due to the country's natural gas
bonanza launched a campaign on Thursday to promote domestic gas
consumption, attacking a recent government-sponsored analysis of
the issue that favored more exports.
The coalition of chemical and heavy industrial companies,
including Dow Chemical and Nucor Corp, said it
wants to ensure the Obama administration hears the voices of
consumers and manufacturers as it weighs requests by natural gas
producers for permission to ship U.S. gas abroad.
"Unfettered exports would be disastrous for the economy,"
said Peter Molinaro, vice president of North America government
affairs for Dow Chemical, at a press conference unveiling the
The drive to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) has become
more contentious. Manufacturers worry exports will raise
domestic prices, while drillers argue exports are needed to
Breakthroughs in drilling technology have dramatically
increased U.S. oil and gas output. The country is on track to be
a net exporter of gas by as early 2016, according to the Energy
Information Administration (EIA).
The new coalition, America's Energy Advantage, said it wants
the U.S. Department of Energy to proceed cautiously in
permitting LNG exports.
The department's authorization is needed to export natural
gas to all but a handful of countries with free trade
agreements. More than a dozen export proposals are pending.
"SERIOUSLY FLAWED" STUDY
The Energy Department said it would not decide on new gas
export projects until it reviewed a study on economic
implications. The study by NERA Economic Consulting was released
in December. It concluded that unlimited gas exports would offer
net benefits for the U.S. economy including increased real
income for U.S. households.
The coalition blasted the study, saying it failed to
consider economic benefits from the U.S. manufacturing sector
while gas prices remain low.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate
energy committee, also called the report "seriously flawed."
"The shortcomings of the NERA study are numerous and render
this study insufficient for the department to use in any export
determination," said Wyden, who led the charge in Congress for a
pause in the permitting.
Wyden said the Energy Department should not decide about gas
exports until it gets more recent EIA data and addresses other
issues he raised about the report.
The debate over how to manage the nation's natural gas
bounty is likely to have a prominent role in energy policy
discussions in Congress this year.
Wyden and his Republican counterpart on the energy
committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski, have already agreed to hold a
wide ranging hearing on natural gas early in the new session.
"SHORT SIGHTED" EFFORT
Supporters of boosting natural gas exports slammed the
coalition's campaign, saying it presented a false choice.
"Short-sighted efforts by a few industrial users to restrict
exports in an apparent attempt to control prices would deprive
American families of the wider benefits of lower costs and
increased job creation," said American Petroleum Institute head
Companies such as Dominion, Sempra and Exxon
Mobil are among those lined up to get permission to sell
gas overseas, where it can fetch much higher prices.
Some export boosters have also raised questions about Dow
Chemical's 15 percent stake in the Freeport LNG terminal in
Texas, which is now first in line for consideration by the
Energy Department to become an export terminal.
Dow had been one of the most outspoken industry advocates
for limited exports, even before joining the coalition.
George Blitz, vice president of energy for Dow, said the
company owns a stake in the import portion of the terminal and
does not to expect any financial gains from the proposed export
expansion at this point.
"We've been opposed to it. We're not going to be part of an
export facility," Blitz said.