The shale gas revolution and and planned liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to foreign nations have elevated the United States' position on the global energy stage, said European and Asian energy representatives Thursday. They urged U.S. House lawmakers to seize the new energy tool for diplomatic purposes and to aid allies.

The United States, which is flush with shale gas, has the opportunity to meet all of the energy needs of its allies. The key will be breaking down the barriers to gas exports. The foreign representatives applauded Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) for his "Expedited LNG for American Allies Act," which he introduced in February. The bill seeks to strengthen U.S. strategic partnerships with key allies, reduce the trade deficit and boost job growth in the U.S. by streamlining the regulatory process to export natural gas to North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, Japan and others.

The bill calls for the United States to treat applications to export gas to NATO countries and Japan -- countries with which the U.S. does not have Free Trade Agreements (FTA) -- no differently than if they were FTA applications. For countries with which the U.S. has an FTA, the approval is automatic. However, for non-FTA countries, there is a lengthy regulatory process to determine whether such exports are in the public interest.

Imports from the United States would be the "most reliable supply" source of energy for Japan, said Yasushi Akahoshi, minister in charge of energy policy. In Japan, he said, consumers pay $16/Mcf for natural gas, compared to approximately $3.50/Mcf in the United States.

Thailand is a net energy importer; it imports half of the energy that it consumes, particularly natural gas, said Saroj Thanasunti, charge d-affaires of Thailand during an international LNG forum sponsored by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday. He projected that the demand for energy in his country will double over the next 25 years. By 2030, he expects 40% of his country's gas supply will come from LNG exports.

Although Thailand does not have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States, Thanasunti said the country is "seriously considering" the possibility of receiving LNG imports from the United States, and it also is interested in exploring shale gas opportunities in the United States.

The Czech Republic is a "very strong advocate of U.S. LNG exports," said Jaroslav Zajicek, deputy chief of mission. He said his country is trying to diversify its energy portfolio, but it's still dependent on Russia for much of its gas.

Hungary imports more than 65% of its energy needs, said Anita Orban, ambassador-at-large for energy security of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Singapore, which has an FTA agreement with the United States, is building a trading hub and expects to double its LNG export capacity in the next few years, said Ashaok Kumar-Mirpuri, Singapore's ambassador to the United States.

Singapore LNG Corp., owned by the Energy Market Authority of Singapore, is the designated vehicle for Singapore's gas trading aspirations and operates the first LNG terminal in Asia capable of importing and re-exporting LNG from multiple suppliers. The company commissioned its inaugural LNG cargo in March and began commercial operations in May.

The country's first objective in building an LNG terminal is to secure gas supplies for its own growing demand, and second, to become an LNG trading hub where substantial storage capacity enables buyers to purchase a wide range of cargo sizes.