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Hearings Prompt Chamber, Industry to Back U.S. LNG Exports

In the wake of Congress holding three hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday, a number of business and industry leaders are voicing their support for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the United States and legislation that could change the number of export permits approved by the Department of Energy (DOE).

Meanwhile, an analyst with IHS Energy Inc. said Russia's oil and gas sectors were likely to be negatively impacted by sanctions leveled against the country for its incursion into Ukraine.

In a statement Tuesday, Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the organization supported passage of HR 6, a bill before the House that would grant immediate approval to all pending applications that had a notice published in the Federal Register (see related story and Daily GPI, March 18).

"U.S. natural gas exports would have a pronounced impact on the global market geopolitical calculus of most nations in Europe and Asia, even if they would not be direct recipients of U.S. gas," Josten said. "If HR 6 is enacted and present natural gas export barriers removed, the global market would benefit from increased competition and importing countries would be provided with greater freedom of choice.

"While it would take several years to construct export facilities, the impacts would be felt in the near-term. Importers would immediately begin competing for potential future shipments from the U.S., significantly reducing the leverage maintained by countries that may use natural gas exports for political purposes."

Marty Durbin, CEO for America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), urged the Obama administration to have DOE approve the pending applications.

"Without a more efficient and timely approval process, the U.S. may be losing opportunities to participate in the growing global energy market and leaving behind the many economic, environmental and energy security benefits that natural gas offers. The bicameral and bipartisan support for accelerating this process is encouraging, and represents a chance for the U.S. to lead in the global call for reliable, affordable energy.

"While we won't be able to 'turn the spigot' and bring immediate energy to our allies around the globe, we can send a signal to the rest of the world that help is on the way. Doing nothing on natural gas exports, as some would prefer, would allow other countries with abundant natural gas to leap ahead of us in LNG export capacity and technologies. Forfeiting our competitive trade advantage is not an option."

Center for Liquefied Natural Gas President Bill Cooper, who held a press conference Monday to discuss the Ukraine crisis and how it relates to U.S. LNG exports (see Daily GPI, March 24), said the events in Eastern Europe strengthen the case for the DOE to speed up the approval process for LNG export permits.

"Doing so will boost our own economy and will supply our trading partners with a more diverse and reliable source of fuel," Cooper said. "Abundant U.S. natural gas supplies allow us to export a small percentage while maintaining affordable domestic natural gas prices. There is no reason for further delay. We welcome the actions of the House and Senate that support accelerating pending LNG export applications."

In a note Wednesday, IHS analyst Julie Nanay, who specializes in Russia and the Caspian Sea, said sanctions by the United States and the European Union will hurt some Russian companies and projects, and will slow investment. The sanctions come at an inopportune time, she said, because Russian companies were looking to launch major upstream, midstream and downstream initiatives.

"While the sanctions so far do not impose any direct restrictions on the Russian energy sector, they undermine investor confidence, impeding Moscow's efforts to generate economic growth through expanded investment," Nanay said. "The Ukraine crisis has also put additional pressure on the ruble, which creates negative momentum for Russian economic growth.

"The sanctions on Russian officials, as well as ratings downgrades on investment, may negatively impact various big-ticket upstream and midstream projects perceived as vital for the Russian state -- including gas pipelines, LNG projects, and offshore exploration."

In separate hearings on Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power discussed U.S. LNG exports and the crisis in Ukraine (see Daily GPI, March 25). The House Committee on Foreign Affairs took up the issue on Wednesday (see Daily GPI, March 26).

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