The following op-ed appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 25th.
Supporting LNG exports, the Texas way
Cutting federal red tape will help the economy andraise U.S. energy leadership
By Paul Bettencourt and Gene Wu
February 25, 2016
Bipartisan support isn’t something you hear very often in Washington, D.C., but in Texas we understand the importance of working together to support efforts that will benefit the Texas economy and add jobs. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports are an opportunity to do just that.
Thanks to the shale boom, the United States has moved from a position of energy scarcity to a position of strength and abundance. By liquefying surplus natural gas supplies and exporting it to allies overseas, the U.S. is able to solidify its place as a global energy provider while at the same time creating jobs at home and strengthening our own economy.
Texas is uniquely positioned to become a leader in the next chapter in America’s energy transformation due to our abundant natural gas supply, infrastructure and access to deep water ports. According to studies, LNG exports will create up to 155,000 Texas jobs in construction, operations, exploration and production by 2035 and contribute up to $31.4 billion to our local economies. The benefits of LNG exports are not just confined to Texas. LNG exports are expected to generate as much as $86 billion in net benefits to the U.S. economy and help create up to 2.4 million American jobs by 2035, according to a recent report from NERA Economic consulting. Additionally, a 2015 peer-reviewed study by Carnegie Mellon University found that exporting LNG from the U.S. to Asia or Europe can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared with burning coal.
LNG exports will play an important geopolitical role as well. For decades, our allies abroad have been dependent on countries that are politically at odds with U.S. interests in order to meet their demand for natural gas. Now that the U.S. has an abundant supply of natural gas that can be offered to our allies, we have the ability to weaken the stronghold that countries like Russia and Iran have on those countries while at the same time strengthening our own domestic economy. This past legislative session, we were the sponsors of a resolution urging Congress to expedite the permitting process for natural gas exports.
The measure, SCR 32, passed without opposition and was signed by Governor Abbott. Currently, costly and time-consuming regulatory limitations hinder the trade expansion and job creation that LNG exports are able to provide. Under the current process, license applications are delayed or backlogged at the Department of Energy.
This hurts hard-working Texans who will benefit from good-paying jobs and also prevents America from taking a leading role in the world market. An update to our policies is long overdue.
The energy bill currently working its way through Congress includes provisions that would help increase regulatory certainty for economically viable LNG export projects. The proposed legislation imposes a deadline for the DOE to review and act on export permit requests to non-free trade agreement countries following final environmental approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Most of our allies clamoring for U.S. natural gas – Spain, Lithuania, France, etc. – do not currently have a free trade agreement in place with the United States.
During this time of uncertainty in commodity prices, LNG exports still provide a bright spot for the energy industry that will create economic growth opportunities for hard-working Texans and businesses. We must not delay an opportunity to reinvigorate the energy markets, create jobs and provide our allies with a clean and reliable source of energy. As Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, we must continue to call on Congress to address this important issue of a burdensome permitting process.
The Texas way is a recognition of the obvious: that we must allow the United States to realize its full potential as a global energy leader with LNG.
Bettencourt is a Republican Texas state senator from Houston. Wu is a Democrat representing Houston in the state House of Representatives.