Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he will delay final decisions on about 20 applications to export liquefied natural gas until he reviews studies by the Energy Department and others on what impact the exports would have on domestic natural-gas supplies and prices.
Moniz, who was sworn in as the nation’s new energy chief in May, said he promised during his confirmation hearing that he would “review what’s out there” before acting on proposals to export natural gas. Among the things Moniz said he wants to review is whether the data in the studies are outdated.
A study commissioned by the Energy Department concluded last year that exporting natural gas would benefit the U.S. economy even if it led to higher domestic prices for the fuel.
Many U.S. energy companies are hoping to take advantage of an ongoing natural-gas boom by exporting liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to Europe and Asia, where prices are far higher. About 20 applications to export LNG to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States are pending before the Energy Department.
Business groups support LNG exports as a way to create thousands of jobs and spur more U.S. production.
Consumer advocates and some manufacturers that use natural gas as a raw material or fuel source oppose exports, saying they could drive up domestic prices and increase manufacturing costs. Many environmental groups also oppose LNG exports because of fears that increased drilling could lead to environmental problems.
Natural gas results in fewer global-warming emissions than other fossil fuels such as coal or oil, and Moniz has backed natural gas as a bridge fuel to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants that contribute to global warming. Environmental groups worry that drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing could harm drinking-water supplies or cause other problems.