* Gas exports offer geo-political benefits-former
* LNG exports could help reduce reliance on Russia, Iran
* Energy exports should not be used as "political
By Ayesha Rascoe
WASHINGTON, Jan 11 The United States can help
its allies by selling part of its abundant gas reserves abroad,
and do so without sacrificing the resurgent manufacturing
sector, two former U.S. energy secretaries said on Friday.
The availability of U.S. liquefied natural gas could allow
countries in Europe and Asia to be more selective about their
energy providers, the former officials told Reuters.
"It's not a trade off," said Bill Richardson, who headed the
U.S. Energy Department during the Clinton administration. "What
we are offering the international community and our friends by
exporting natural gas is a form of energy security."
Technological innovations have dramatically increased U.S.
natural gas output, putting the country on the path to
potentially be a net exporter of gas after years of fears that
the nation would have to rely on foreign sources to meet its
But tensions over gas exports are growing as critics voice
concerns that the United States could be trading away the low
energy prices that have fueled a rebound by the long-struggling
Richardson and Spencer Abraham, who served as energy
secretary during the second Bush administration, have joined
forces to throw their support behind LNG exports. In December
the pair penned an op-ed in the Financial Times in backing
They argue that the United States could diversify the market
for natural gas in places like western Europe, where Russia has
used natural gas exports for political leverage.
U.S. exports could also help countries move away from
imports of Iranian natural gas. The European Union issued
measures last month banning Iranian gas imports, as part of an
effort to get the country to scale back its nuclear program.
These "positive" developments have "to be factored into any
calculus that's made as to the benefits of exporting natural
gas," Abraham said.
Natural gas exports to all but a handful of countries with
free trade agreements require authorization from the Energy
Department. The department is currently weighing 16 applications
sell the natural gas to foreign countries.
The debate over how to manage the nation's natural gas
bounty is ramping up, with a group of energy intensive companies
launching a campaign on Thursday to promote domestic use of
Abraham and Richardson disputed the notion that permitting
natural gas exports would hurt manufacturers, pointing to a
government-sponsored report issued late last year that found
exports would have only a modest impact on prices.
Some export skeptics have also argued the United States
should extract some concessions from countries before allowing
exports to non-free trade agreement nations, but Abraham said
the United States "should not go down that road."
"We've always been the good guys," Abraham said. "We've
stood for free trade, not using energy exports as political
tool. That's the high ground."