Manchin blasts White House for siding with climate activists in natural gas pause – Pennsylvania Capital-Star
Members of the U.S. Senate Energy Committee on Thursday questioned the Biden administration’s recent move to pause approvals of some liquified natural gas exports, saying the move appeared to be taken for political purposes.
Committee Chair Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, urged President Joe Biden to back out of the Department of Energy’s announcement last month that it would not consider new applications to export liquified natural gas, or LNG, to non-free-trade countries as it conducts a review of the energy source’s impacts.
Manchin and some Republicans on the panel warned Thursday that the move would aid Russia in its war against Ukraine and called it an election-year ploy to appease climate activists.
They noted the move didn’t go through a vigorous review process and that messaging about the pause from the White House has been focused on climate impacts.
“I strongly urge that this pause should be reversed immediately,” Manchin said. “Facts must come before action, not the other way around. Unfortunately, it seems the White House has already sided with climate activists to block any more LNG exports.”
Administration defends pause
Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk told the Senate panel that U.S. LNG capacity has tripled since the last comprehensive analysis of the issue in 2018 and is expected to double again by the end of the decade. Projects that already have department approval will not be affected, he said.
The department has a legal responsibility to consider the public interest, Turk said, adding that analysis of price and climate impacts needed to be updated after such rapid expansion.
“There is no doubt that this dramatically increasing amount of LNG export creates, and will continue to create, large numbers of jobs,” he said. “But our public-interest determinations also need to analyze price impacts to all U.S. consumers and all U.S. manufacturers and industry.”
Greater exports of natural gas can create higher prices domestically, he said.
Biden’s natural gas export pause fought over by U.S. House panel
An updated environmental analysis will need to focus on methane leakage, which is a major contributor to climate change, Turk added. The U.S. also needs to understand how greater use of LNG would affect climate in the long-term.
While its proponents say natural gas is a less carbon-intensive energy source than coal and other fossil fuels, Turk said projections still indicate global LNG demand must fall by 75% by 2050 to meet climate goals.
Republicans on the panel, including former Chair Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined Manchin in accusing Biden of using the pause to curry favor with environmental groups.
“You have to acknowledge that there’s a fair amount of skepticism and cynicism about this and the politics of the timing with a president who is trying to get well with the environmental community,” Murkowski said. “It doesn’t make sense from an economic perspective, from a trade perspective.”
Ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming called the move “cowardly.”
Biden “defies logic to kiss up to the radical climate extremists,” he said.
Manchin tangles with King
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, defended the pause in an exchange with Manchin.
Manchin, who is considering a third-party bid for president, said it was reasonable to update the process for approving LNG exports. But the administration’s pause was sudden and appeared political, he said.
“There are sensible reasons to update market assessments that the DOE uses when reviewing export applications to ensure the trajectory that we’re on won’t risk harming American families and businesses,” Manchin said. “But these types of decisions should be firmly based on facts, not politics.”
The administration did not consult Congress or undertake a full rulemaking before the pause was put in place, he said.
“If we’re talking about considering a pause, this is a great, great panel for that,” he said “You have an executive order doing a pause. That’s the difference I have with (the administration). They put the cart before the horse. You really leapt before you looked.”
King responded that the pause was only temporary and would allow the department to gather information to make an informed final policy decision.
“I think it’s just the opposite, Mr. Chairman,” King said. “They’re doing their job. Their job is to see that these projects are in the public interest. There’s no way to do that without the data.”
Manchin answered that the administration should have continued its operations as normal during a reassessment.
“You can’t do the pause first, though,” Manchin said.
“Why not?” King asked. “Continue approving projects when you find out five years from now it was a disaster? I don’t think that’s a very good policy.”
Turn to Russia
Critics of the pause said it would cede market share to Russian natural gas, which that country relies on to fund its war with Ukraine.
Manchin said the pause was “ill-advised” because it sent the message to allies and partners that the U.S. is “not in the market” for LNG exports.
“I don’t want to scare the bejesus out of our friends,” he said.
That view was validated by James Watson, the secretary general of European trade group Eurogas, who was a witness at Thursday’s hearing.
“By not being able perhaps to honor the commitments that have been made in the United States towards its allies, you are going to indeed force us to continue to do business with Russia,” Watson said.
Thursday’s hearing was the second on the subject on Capitol Hill this week, indicating the dismay among opponents of the pause.
A U.S. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee divided along party lines in their assessments of the pause during a Tuesday hearing.
Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by Jacob Fischler