Exclusive: U.S. LNG group to launch campaign for natgas exports

Sun Oct 21, 2012 8:11pm EDT
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By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Backers of liquefied natural gas will launch the first major campaign on Monday to press lawmakers to allow the sale of more U.S. gas abroad, as the industry push for exports intensifies.

The effort by the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas will include a new web site and outreach aimed at policymakers and the public, making the case that selling the nation's surplus natural gas to foreign countries will yield significant economic benefits and not drastically raise prices.

"There is a lot of stranded investment waiting to be unleashed in these projects that would pour billions of dollars into local and national economies, if the regulatory process would be freed up and allowed to move forward," Bill Cooper, the head of the LNG trade group, told Reuters.

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger for the presidency, Mitt Romney, have both lauded the boom in U.S. shale oil and gas production as a critical component of moving the country toward "energy independence."

But, the winner of the November 6 election will have to contend with concerns about how to manage this newfound energy wealth.

While federal law allows exports of natural gas, the Energy Department has to determine whether expanded exports are in the national interest. Only one export terminal has been approved but decisions on about 10 applications have been delayed till a review on the implications of exports is completed.

Critics have argued the nation's vast gas reserves offer a strategic advantage that should be used to bolster U.S. industry, and exporting gas will hurt manufacturers currently experiencing a resurgence due to cheap energy costs.

While the initiative is not directed at influencing the election campaign, the LNG group hopes it will help to combat calls to limit exports and will speed up the stalled permitting process.   Continued...