* Rep. Markey says report fundamentally flawed
* Gas export report used 2-year-old data
* New analysis needed with more recent data-Markey
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Dec 17 A government-sponsored study
that found natural gas exports would benefit the U.S. economy
was deeply flawed and should be repeated with more recent data,
a key Democratic lawmaker said on Monday.
The NERA Economic Consulting study, commissioned by the
Energy Department, gave a resounding endorsement of the economic
benefits of unlimited exports when it was released earlier this
But, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts said the
report relied on government estimates of U.S. natural gas demand
from two years ago when the full implications of the shale gas
boom were not understood.
"I was disappointed to find fundamental flaws with the study
that I fear may have led to conclusions that severely
underestimate the negative impacts of large-scale natural gas
exporting," said Markey, an outspoken critic of liquefied
natural gas exports, in a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources
Committee, called for analysis of the most up to date gas demand
data by NERA's model and for a more detailed look at the effects
of gas exports on U.S. employment.
The study also failed to compare the benefits of exports
versus the benefits of industrial use of cheap natural gas,
The nation's shale gas boom has sparked debate among policy
makers about whether the nation should use its newfound energy
bounty domestically to keep prices low or export surplus gas to
help support growing production and create new jobs in the
So far, the Obama administration has attempted to balance
these opposing arguments while also fielding input from others,
including environmental groups.
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with
free trade agreements require authorization from the Energy
After approving exports from Cheniere's Sabine Pass
terminal, the department put decisions on more exports on hold
for more than a year pending the release of the economic study.
With the report now out, the department has stressed the
study would be only one of the factors the government would
consider as it weighs 15 export applications, and the agency is
not bound by the NERA findings.