by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Rarely does a policy change make no sense on its own terms, contradict other policies of the same administration, and harm America’s domestic and foreign interests. But the Biden administration has managed to do all of that with its decision to stonewall approval of new liquefied-natural-gas export terminals.
The White House statement on the decision begins with a high-school-freshman opening sentence (“In every corner of the country and the world, people are suffering the devastating toll of climate change”), and the quality of analysis doesn’t improve from there.
Nowhere in the statement or the accompanying fact sheet does the administration explain the mechanism by which it believes the existence of new LNG export terminals would hurt the climate. The fact sheet mostly consists of a list of other climate-related policies the administration has pursued.
According to the EPA’s own methodology, which is more prone to overstate climate effects than other approaches, canceling all U.S. LNG exports forever would reduce global temperatures by 0.013 decrees C by 2100. That tiny effect would be for a far more draconian policy than the Biden administration has pursued. LNG exports simply aren’t contributing to climate change in any significant way.
Here’s reality: LNG is going to be produced. It is going to be sold on the global market. It is going to be used. Those things will happen whether new export terminals are built or not. The question is whether the U.S. wants to make exports easier or harder.
Making it harder doesn’t help the climate. Countries that would have purchased U.S. LNG can substitute LNG from other countries. Mother Earth doesn’t really care which country it comes from.
Countries that aren’t able to substitute LNG from elsewhere are likely to use coal instead. Coal burns dirtier than LNG.