"The Unlikely Coalition Behind Biden’s Liquefied Natural Gas Pivot"

"Climate activists led the charge against LNG exports, but they’re not the only ones celebrating Biden’s pause."

"Environmental activists and community organizers on the Gulf Coast have spent years pressuring the Biden administration to halt the construction of terminals that export liquefied natural gas, or LNG. As U.S. production of natural gas skyrocketed over the past few decades, energy companies began building massive coastal facilities to liquefy the fossil fuel and transport it by ship to Europe, Asia, and elsewhere. In response, activists staged protests, organized sit-ins, wrote to members of Congress, and broadly made the issue Biden’s “next big climate test.”

When the administration announced that it would pause its approval of new LNG terminals late last month, the climate movement and its allies were largely credited with the victory. Bill McKibben, the renowned founder of 350.org (and a former Grist board member), began his blog post about the news by saying, “Um, I think we all just won.” The decision reportedly came about after senior administration officials, including White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi, learned that young activists on TikTok were drawing millions of views elevating LNG as a major climate issue.

As if to prove the president was listening, the White House has collected dozens of quotes from climate advocates praising the decision. (In some ways, the activists’ celebration belies the reality that the climate impact of constricting LNG exports is far from certain, and the devil is in the details: While a broader buildout certainly has the potential to promote unnecessary fossil fuel use, it may also speed other countries’ transition away from other, more harmful fossil fuels like coal.)

But a broader, less-climate-concerned coalition, representing thousands of manufacturers, chemical companies, and consumer advocates, has also been quietly pushing for the pause — and stands to benefit if Biden curbs LNG exports. The more American natural gas that’s available to be shipped overseas, they argue, the more unpredictable the price of the fuel will be stateside. If, for example, an unexpected gas shortage in another country means U.S. gas companies can make more money selling their product overseas than they can at home, prices will rise as the supply is stretched thin. This volatility would hurt not only households who heat and power their homes with natural gas, but also the profit margins of big companies that rely on the fuel."

Naveena Sadasivam, Zoya Teirstein, and Jake Bittle report for Grist February 8, 2024.

Source: Grist, 02/13/2024