Markey to Chu: Why Is America Exporting Our Natural Gas?

DOE Considering Export Plans That Would Send American Natural Gas Abroad, Potentially Raising Energy Prices for American Families

WASHINGTON (January 4, 2012) - Worried that American consumers and businesses will face higher prices if energy companies are allowed to sell U.S. natural gas to foreign markets, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about his department's review of natural gas export applications.

The Department of Energy is now reviewing applications from seven energy companies to export U.S. natural gas and recently approved another application. If all eight projects go forward, the total amount exported would equal about 18 percent of the natural gas currently consumed in the United States, according to data provided by DOE to the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee, where Rep. Markey serves as Ranking Member.

Exporting this amount could expose U.S. natural gas-whose price is not set on the world market-to global price pressures that have already driven oil prices to record highs. The price of natural gas is as much as four times higher in foreign countries than in the United States, and American consumers and businesses that use natural gas in manufacturing could see prices rise according to what foreign buyers are willing to pay. That would also reduce natural gas' potential as a so-called "bridge fuel" in the transition away from coal and oil and toward renewable energy sources.

"I believe we must quickly transition to clean, sustainable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, to achieve lasting energy security and reduce pollution causing global climate change and other environmental problems," writes Rep. Markey to Secretary Chu. "However, natural gas has been called a ‘bridge fuel' because it's now cheap and abundant and, when burned, it emits less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than coal and oil. I am worried that exporting America's natural gas would raise energy costs for American consumers, reduce the global competitiveness of U.S. businesses, make us more dependent on foreign sources of energy, and slow our transition away from dirtier fuels."

The full letter is available HERE.

In the letter to Secretary Chu, Rep. Markey asks, among other questions, how approving the eight projects would impact prices for American consumers and manufacturers; what effects increased exports would have on America's contribution to climate change through the release of heat-trapping emissions; and whether the Secretary believes exporting large amounts of natural gas is truly in the national interest of the United States.

"I want to make sure we carefully consider our long-term economic and security interests before deciding to export our natural gas," writes Rep. Markey. "If exporting means accelerated development, then we will more rapidly deplete natural gas resources that could help sustain future generations of Americans, leading to higher prices as resources diminish."