* US DOE currently studying impact of exports
* Chu says his "mind not made up"
* Lawmakers raising concerns about LNG exports
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Feb 16 The U.S. Energy
Department will not make a decision on future liquefied natural
gas exports until it has weighed the potential consequences of
sending U.S. gas abroad, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on
Chu said there was concern that exporting the nation's
surplus natural gas could lead to higher prices, but that had to
be balanced against the economic benefits of increasing the U.S.
"We're not going to do anything until we make a
determination what the impact would be," Chu told lawmakers at
Senate energy committee hearing on the Obama administration's
Natural gas exports to all but 15 countries that have free
trade agreements with the United States require the Energy
Advances in drilling techniques have unlocked the nation's
vast shale gas reserves, but U.S. demand has not kept up with
rapidly expanding gas output.
Plentiful gas supplies have transformed the U.S. energy
picture, leading companies to pursue LNG export opportunities,
when just a few years ago industry was preparing to import LNG.
The Energy Department has approved one export application
from Cheniere Energy for its Sabine Pass terminal, and
other companies including Southern, BG, Dominion
and Sempra have also requested permission.
The department is conducting a study due out later in the
Spring that would analyze the economic effects of allowing more
Still, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, raised
concerns that Chu had already decided to approve more exports,
citing a report that Chu said gas exports would bring wealth to
"There are substantial questions that have to be addressed
before our country starts allowing significant natural gas
exports," Wyden said at the hearing.
Chu stressed that his "mind was not made up," however.
"Certainly we don't want to see natural gas prices rise
dramatically," Chu said.
But,"there's a flip side we have to consider that it does
create American jobs, and if prices are kept moderate it does
bring money to United States," he added.
Some lawmakers have said they are worried that LNG exports
could raise prices for U.S. households and hurt manufacturing
industries that rely on natural gas.
Last month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said
exporting surplus U.S. natural gas could add as much as 9
percent a year to prices of the fuel for consumers and industry
over the next two decades, if all pending applications were
Democratic Congressman Edward Markey introduced legislation
earlier this week aimed at keeping domestic prices low by
barring the export of natural gas.
Gas drillers have warned that constraining exports would
limit production by making development unprofitable. Already,
some companies have begun to cut back on production because of
the current gas glut.