Starting in the 1970s, huge Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals started popping up along the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S., taking gas deliveries from abroad needed to power American homes and industry. But the recent U.S. shale gas boom could soon turn the LNG tankers around and use those same terminals for export. Before that happens, however, the terminals must receive a nod from the U.S. Department of Energy.
GE, an industrial company that builds oil and gas rigs and also turbines and generators that turn that gas into heat and electricity, believes that LNG exports could create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. energy industry and manufacturing, and spur the sluggish global economy. That’s why Dan Heintzelman, president and CEO of GE Oil & Gas, recently asked U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a letter on behalf of GE “to bear in mind the significant benefits that will accrue to the United States economy from allowing exports,” when considering whether approving pending applications for LNG exports were in public interest.
Rising Tide: LNG tankers like this one may soon start exporting American natural gas.
Heintzelman wrote that LNG exports could improve the U.S. trade balance, help the global economy by lowering the price of energy, and promote a global shift away from “carbon intensive fuels” for electricity generation. “GE supports free market and free trade,” Heinzelman wrote. “As a global company, we have witnessed firsthand the economic vitality generated when local workers, local industry, and local resources are unleashed to compete in world markets.”
There have been a number of outside observers who share GE’s view, from think tanks like the Brookings Institution and consulting firms like Deloitte, to the energy analyst and author Daniel Yergin. Yergin, for example, called low-cost natural gas “the real stimulus.”
But Heintzelman warned that the LNG export opportunity is time sensitive, not open-ended. He said that alternative LNG supplies from the Middle East, Africa, Russia, and Australia and perhaps from new international shale gas discoveries will increasingly factor into the global market.
Heinzelman wrote that the U.S. “already has realized significant benefits” from the increased use of abundant natural gas supplies. “We have created new industries, stimulated a renaissance in domestic manufacturing, and lowered emissions of carbon and other harmful pollutants as natural gas has become a primary energy source.”
Heintzelman concluded by saying that the Department of Energy “should promptly approve the pending applications for LNG exports with preference in consideration and approval given to those with the best chance to move forward quickly.”
“This will allow the Unites States to capture the full economic benefits of this opportunity, and to capitalize on our leadership in natural gas technologies,” Heintzelman said.