On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it was invoking a hold on permitting processes for proposed new export projects for liquefied natural gas (LNG). It was a nakedly partisan act designed to appease the Democrat party’s climate alarmist funder base, one that will create ripple effects across the global economy and energy space. It will also create uncertainty and alarm among consumers of US LNG, especially among European nations who are supposedly America’s allies.
Reacting to the policy decision, Tom Pyle, President of the DC-based Institute for Energy Research, told me that, “With this decision, President Biden is continuing to place his environmental donors over the American people. A delay of a decision on [permitting] until after the November 5, 2024, U.S. presidential election could spare President Biden from criticism from environmentalists, but it will likely cause havoc to markets and the energy security of our allies who may question the reliability of the United States as a secure energy supplier.”
Fortunately for the United States and its LNG customers, an array of new export facilities already in the construction phase of development will add up to 12 billion cubic feet per day of new export capacity over the coming three years. These projects would be unmolested by this latest authoritarian move by the White House, absent efforts to expand it.
One of the biggest of these is the Rio Grande LNG project being constructed outside Brownsville, Texas near the mouth of the Rio Grande River. Operated by developer NextDecade, Rio Grande LNG will have the capacity to export 11.74 million tonnes of LNG per year once its three trains go into service in the coming years. That equates to enough energy to heat and cool 34 million households, more energy than all the Biden administration’s planned offshore wind projects combined.
Even better, Rio Grande LNG is being designed to produce LNG that will rank among the lowest carbon-intensive production in the world. That’s because NextDecade is simultaneously building out a massive carbon capture and storage project in conjunction with the export facility.
But, even though Rio Grande LNG and other planned facilities under construction appear to be untouched by the Biden delay, no one should think they are moving ahead unopposed. A pair of activist groups, the Private Equity Stakeholder Project (PESP) and the Oregon Investment Council (OIC), groups with no real connection to the community, have worked to drum up opposition to the project that is providing hundreds of jobs and ultimately billions of dollars in economic impact for the local area. Ironically, this PESP group is working in opposition to the development despite major investments being made into it by ESG-focused investor groups, potentially including Larry Fink’s BlackRock if a planned acquisition is completed.
Part of the opposition’s advocacy claims to be protecting the interests of the Carrizo Comecrudo Nation with a somewhat specious claim that the project is being sited on sacred lands. But this Carrizo nation is not a federally recognized tribe, likely because a review of its history indicates it is in fact native to Mexico rather than Texas. The claim of sacred lands appears to hold no merit and be purely motivated by politics, no different than the White House delay on permitting announced Thursday.
An email missive from PESP that landed in my email inbox this week also claims that “… the facilities would significantly degrade local fishing, shrimping and natural tourism industries putting communities’ livelihoods at risk.” But the only evidence offered in support of these claims is a “study” authored by a group of leftwing climate alarm groups like the Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club. If the claims had been truly quantified by any credible source, the Biden administration would have no doubt been eager to act on them to advance its Green New Deal-based agenda.
The world needs America’s LNG, and is likely to need more and more of it as time goes on. The White House’s action to delay the already-ridiculously slow permitting process in such an obvious political move is as reprehensible as it is, frankly, stupid.
David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.
David Blackmon on January 28, 2024