Obama Defies Dems, Approves Natural Gas Exports


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The Department of Energy gave final approval for a Palm Beach, Fla. natural gas export terminal to send U.S. gas abroad after studies determined the terminal wouldn’t significantly impact the environment.

The Palm Beach terminal will add to the local property tax base, create construction jobs, and improve trade relations with friendly governments, according to the Department of Energy. The DOE gave no exact estimates for how many jobs the Palm Beach export terminal would create, but a previously approved Maryland export facility is expected to create 14,600 jobs and reduced the trade deficit by $7 billion every year.

America’s natural gas production has boomed in recent years and encouraged companies to look for international markets to send cheap gas. But it’s been a bumpy road for gas companies.

The Obama administration has historically been slow to process permits for natural gas export, making some projects wait up to four years for a permit. Democratic Sens. [crscore]Barbara Boxer[/crscore] of California, [crscore]Al Franken[/crscore] of Minnesota and [crscore]Ed Markey[/crscore] of Massachusetts, along with independent Sen. [crscore]Bernard Sanders[/crscore] of Vermont, introduced legislation to slow the approval process down even further.

Global demand for natural gas is expected to be 50 percent higher by 2035 than it is now, but shipping gas to European or Asian markets requires liquefying or compressing the fuel — a costly process. But companies are willing to pay up now in order to sell gas abroad where prices are much higher.

In Japan, for example, natural gas prices are nearly three times higher than in America, so companies are looking to export there. Japan’s appetite for gas is only going to increase, especially since the country scaled back its nuclear power plant fleet after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

In Europe, American gas exports are the only major alternative to Russian gas. European officials fear Russia’s grip on energy markets could be used to achieve political goals. Russia has used its natural gas to manipulate politics in the past. Indeed, Europe was initially hesitant to rebuke Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula because of its control over natural gas pipelines.

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