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November 16, 2021

“Why Would We Want to Screw That Up?” – King Warns Natural Gas Exports Harming Americans, Strengthening Competitors

King stresses that as American consumers struggle to afford heating their homes, LNG exports are “subsidizing Chinese manufacturing”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), today emphasized the harmful, expensive impact that unchecked liquid natural gas (LNG) exports are having on American consumers during a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee. As people across Maine and the country see energy and heating costs rising – and with New England’s reliance on natural gas – Senator King outlined how rapidly increasing LNG exports are driving increased energy costs for consumers. In addition to questioning witnesses on the effects of these exports on the American public, Senator King emphasized that LNG exports are diminishing one of America’s key strategic advantages – comparatively low fuel prices – while subsidizing our global competitors. Senator King also previewed legislation he is working to develop that would require the Department of Energy to account for the “national interest” before approving new LNG exports.

“I’m really worried about [natural gas] exports… we’re up to 10 billion cubic feet [of natural gas exports] a day which is about ten or eleven percent of current U.S. production. So it’s gone from zero percent [ten years ago], to ten or eleven percent that’s going to export… My problem is the projection, and we’ve got plants that have been approved to take this number to twenty percent and even higher,” said Senator King, while referring to a chart highlighting the growth of LNG exports since 2018. “Our friend, Mr. Bryce is an advocate of the free market. No question, is it Mr. Bryce, that an increase of twenty percent demand for a commodity that, at least at this present time, seems to be growing fairly slowly, is going to increase energy prices, right?”

I think so, yes,” replied Mr. Robert Bryce, a witness before the panel.

“OK, no question about that. We are exporting our principal advantage in the world economy,” said Senator King. “We are literally subsidizing Chinese manufacturing by sending them our natural gas… If exports were limited to a surplus, then it wouldn’t affect domestic prices but it has to be affecting domestic prices, and it’s getting serious now but it’s going to be a real problem in 3 to 4 to 5 years because we’re on track to export 20, 30, 40 percent of our natural gas. And that is going to be a disaster for an advantage we have now. All the testimony has been how low our prices are as compared to the rest of the world. Why would we want to screw that up? And that’s what’s happening to our manufacturers, Senator Barasso is right, to our electric consumers. We are squandering an advantage right now because of uncontrolled exports of natural gas.

“I’m going to be proposing legislation [on LNG exports] – not to control it, not to cut it off, but at least to have the Department of Energy do a study when they’re going to approve an export license as to what the impact will be on domestic prices. To me, that’s just common sense. We don’t do that now and the presumption that it’s in the favor of the national interest, that’s the phrase, the national interest in the Gas Act to improve these applications. I think that’s crazy. And that’s exactly what we’re doing, and what my legislation will do is simple. We say, ‘we want you to do a study of what the impact will be on domestic prices’ and if we say, ‘oh, that’s ok we can live with that’ that’s one thing, but now we don’t even do that kind of analysis, and if we do, it’s after the fact or slowly. I think this is a really important hearing and natural gas exports, we’re racing blindly and cutting off our most significant economic advantage vis-à-vis the rest of the world, particularly China.”

Senator King has consistently worked to help lower energy prices for Maine people. He has spoken out against increasing exports of LNG when more natural gas is desperately needed in Maine and across New England, and introduced the Natural Consumer Gas Protection Act, which would require the Department of Energy (DOE) to consider the effect that any natural gas export proposal would have on domestic prices and employment, regional impacts, and any impact on U.S. industrial competitiveness. Senator King has also worked to support the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and to support Maine people struggling to heat their homes.

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