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Environmentalists Oppose Natural Gas Exports

Dominion_Cove-Point-LNG_Terminal_Map

Amy Harder of the Wall Street Journal has a piece out this week examining the fight that environmentalists are now putting up against exporting natural gas:

A coalition of grassroots environmentalists are galvanizing around a fossil-fuel project and urging President Barack Obama to oppose it.

Sound familiar? It’s not the Keystone XL pipeline, but the parameters of the fight—and the arguments—are awfully similar to the fight that’s been raging in Washington and throughout the country over the proposed pipeline for the last five years.

The Sierra Club and 350.org, two advocacy organizations that have been key in rallying opposition to Keystone, helped organize a letter 16 groups sent Tuesday to the White House urging Mr. Obama to oppose exporting natural gas on the basis of global warming and are calling out one proposed project specifically.

It’s the first organized letter by environmentalists urging the White House to oppose such an export policy, which Mr. Obama has so far supported.

“We were told when the Keystone fight came up, there wasn’t a chance in the world,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, on a conference call Tuesday. He added that TransCanada, the company seeking to get presidential sign-off to build Keystone across the Canadian-U.S. border, still doesn’t have that approval despite first submitting its application to the administration more than five years ago. “People put up a big fight,” Mr. McKibben said. “Fights change political realities.”

You can read the letter here. The specific export terminal they oppose is located in Cove Point, Maryland. The odd thing is, exporting natural gas is likely to be better for the climate than keeping it in the United States by reducing coal usage in Asia.  Rising natural gas prices would likely increase coal usage in the United States, but the ultimate impact is likely to be lowered net emissions. From the letter:

Cove Point is emblematic of the irrational and fast-track strategy of the gas industry to export U.S. fracked gas and then ask questions later. The truth is that Cove Point, like other proposed LNG export terminals, will raise U.S. gas prices – harming virtually all Americans – while becoming a historic catalyst for more fracking across the mid-Atlantic and triggering a huge new pulse of climate pollution.

It appears the real reason they oppose gas exports is because it will increase hydraulic fracturing in the United States. 

It is again worth pointing out how disingenuous their argument is. They complain to President Obama that natural gas export terminals will “raise U.S. gas prices.” If these organizations had their way, natural gas prices would be much higher than they are now. So it’s particularily ironic to see an environmental organization complain about policies that will increase domestic energy prices.

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