September 9, 2008 / 9:03 PM / 11 years ago

Senator wants to stop Alaskan gas exports to Japan

WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - A U.S. senator has asked the Energy Department to revoke a recent order authorizing energy companies to continue exporting liquefied natural gas from Alaska to Japan and other Pacific Rim markets.

The department approved a request this summer from ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Marathon Oil (MRO.N) for authority to export up to 98.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas to Japan and other Pacific Rim countries through March 2011.

The super-cooled LNG would be shipped from the LNG export terminal in Kenai, Alaska.

However, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said that with Americans forecast to pay 22 percent more for natural gas to heat their homes this winter, those Alaskan supplies need to stay in the U.S. market.

“The administration is trying to have it both ways — arguing that we need to drill everywhere because we don’t have adequate energy supplies, while finding that we have so much energy that big oil companies can export it overseas and keep prices here at home higher than they would otherwise be,” Wyden wrote in a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman.

The senator said there are new LNG import terminals along the West Coast that could receive the LNG.

The amount of Alaskan LNG that would be exported is enough to heat 1.4 million American homes a year, according to Wyden.

Under federal law, any company that wants to export LNG must first obtain Energy Department permission to ensure the export would not harm U.S. energy supplies. The department has said allowing the LNG exports to continue “will not be inconsistent with the public interest.”

“It is hard to see how the department concluded that the proposed export of Alaskan natural gas met the required public interest test with regard to either Alaskan or lower-48 energy needs,” Wyden said.

Officials at the Energy Department were not immediately available to comment.

LNG is natural gas altered for transportation aboard special tankers. When cooled to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 162 Celsius), the gas changes into liquid and shrinks to less than 1/600th of its original volume.

Upon arrival at a terminal, the LNG is returned to a gaseous state and fed into pipelines. (Reporting by Tom Doggett, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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