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DAVID BLACKMON: Democrats’ Natural Gas Epiphany

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David Blackmon David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
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In the weeks since President Joe Biden signed an order halting federal permitting processes for proposed new LNG export facilities, an array of current and former Democrat U.S. senators from petroleum producing states have raised their voices in support of domestic natural gas.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was the first mover, not only slamming the White House for the policy move, but vowing to hold a hearing on the matter in the Senate Energy Committee over which he serves as chairman. (RELATED: DAVID BLACKMON: The Billionaire Class Is Fueling The War Against Abundant American Energy)

Both Pennsylvania Senators – Bob Casey and John Fetterman – chimed in shortly after, co-signing a letter that states, in part, “we have concerns about the long-term impacts that this pause will have on the thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. If this decision puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk, we will push the Biden Administration to reverse this decision.” Terrific.

Neither current U.S. senator from Louisiana is a Democrat, but former longtime Sen. Mary Landrieu added her voice to the growing Democratic choir, saying the permitting halt undermines the Biden administration’s efforts to support the U.S. industrial sector “because natural gas is the only available, scalable, low cost, lower emission fuel or foundational fuel to build this economy.”

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet round out the roster of senate Democrats condemning the move, with Bennet saying, “I believe one of the United States’ massive strategic strengths is our energy, our clean energy and our fossil fuels. And I think that’s a short-sighted decision.”

Unfortunately, none of the senate Democrats speaking up in support of U.S. natural gas where it comes to exporting it other countries have found it similarly advantageous to raise their voice in support of natural gas as the feedstock for the production of hydrogen at home. While they and their colleagues all seem to be in favor of hydrogen fuel as a general concept, none seem to be aware of the fact that natural gas is the feedstock for roughly 95%of the hydrogen produced in the U.S. today.

Nor do any of them appear to be aware of the reality that the Biden Treasury Department is about to issue a guidance document related to the Inflation Reduction Act’s expanded Section 45V production tax credit that would severely discriminate against this means of hydrogen production, thereby placing planned major hydrogen hub developments already approved by the Biden Energy Department in jeopardy.

One of those planned hubs, the ARCH-2 Hydrogen Hub, would be located in Manchin’s home state of West Virginia. The development’s literature says it would utilize a an array of resources from “West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky” if it does move ahead.

The thing is, the plans for ARCH-2 revolve around using natural gas produced in the Appalachia region as the feedstock for its hydrogen production. Many other proposed hydrogen hubs would use a similar method involving natural gas as the feedstock.

Unfortunately, the proposed formula that the Treasury Department would mandate for use in calculating emissions from the natural gas production to be deployed in the process would discriminate against this method. Yet, it is obvious that the Biden DOE has a desire to make use of America’s strategic advantage where natural gas is concerned.

This was made clear on Oct. 13 last year when DOE announced 7 applicant hubs who would receive shares of an initial $7 billion in federal grants to help defray startup costs. Of those 7 applicants, a solid chunk would include a production pathway using natural gas as a feedstock.

A desire to leverage America’s obvious advantage as the largest natural gas producer in the world makes perfect sense — a failure to do so would represent a huge lost opportunity. Yet, it seems no one clued the Treasury Department in on the plan here.

This all raises an important question: will the current and former senators who are rightly standing up for natural gas jobs in the context of the LNG pause also speak up on the threat to the hydrogen hub in their back yard, which threatens the same union jobs as restrictions on gas exports?

Time to do so is growing short.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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