In a noteworthy divergence from their own historical energy policies, the Biden administration and Democrats are challenging a longstanding trend set in motion by their former leader, President Barack Obama. Despite President Biden’s initial continuation of Obama’s policy on natural gas exports, a recent announcement signals a significant shift. Under mounting pressure from within his party, Biden has temporarily halted permits for a segment of new gas export terminals awaiting federal approval.
During this pause, the administration aims to scrutinize the impact of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports on energy costs, national energy security, and the environment. Environmentalists, congressional Democrats, and communities near the export terminals have pressed the administration, expressing concerns that these terminals could contribute to a surge in the use of planet-heating chemicals, undermining renewable energy efforts.
While the gas industry argues that expanding U.S. gas exports would aid global emission reduction, critics highlight findings that even minor gas pipeline leaks can make the fuel as environmentally damaging as coal. The Biden administration’s decision to review LNG exports marks a departure from Obama’s tenure when climate action and gas promotion were not seen as contradictory.
Obama’s presidency coincided with a transformative period in U.S. oil and gas, inheriting a boom from his predecessor. Obama’s team embraced the idea of gas as a “bridge fuel,” connecting a coal-dependent U.S. power system to a future dominated by renewables. However, the recent review of LNG exports under Biden signifies a reevaluation of these principles.
Despite the Trump administration’s push to expand gas exports, Biden’s Department of Energy approved permits for LNG projects. The rationale for supporting gas exports was rooted in the belief that if extracted safely, gas could serve as a cleaner alternative to coal, aiding in reducing carbon pollution. However, with the pause on new LNG approvals, Biden is acknowledging the need to reevaluate the environmental impact and overall sustainability of the gas boom.
As the gas industry criticizes Biden for what they perceive as political tactics, environmentalists and progressives advocate for a lasting prohibition on gas exports. The ongoing discourse mirrors an evolving viewpoint on the enduring impact and trajectory of the gas boom, emphasizing the need for evidence-based assessments to shape forthcoming energy policies.