President Trump has stated, "We are sitting on massive energy, and we are now exporters of energy. So if one of you need energy, just give us a call."
This is simply not true for natural gas, or from the perspective of companies who invest capital building manufacturing facilities to last 50 years or more.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates that the U.S. has only 2,196 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas in the lower 48 states. Eighty-five percent of natural gas resources are unproven. Also, technically recoverable does not mean it is economically recoverable.
The EIA's AEO 2017 forecast tells a compelling and worrisome story for all consumers, not just domestic manufacturers. EIA's forecasted cumulative domestic natural gas demand, which includes LNG and pipeline exports, would consume 56 percent of all technically recoverable resources in the lower 48 by 2050, only 33 years away. Over these 33 years, LNG exports are forecasted to increase to only 12 Bcf/d, which is a low estimate.
The past and current administrations have already given breathtaking approval of LNG exports to free trade agreement (FTA) and non-free trade agreement countries (NFTA) in the volume of 54 Bcf/d, which is 71 percent of 2016 U.S. natural gas demand.
This is worrisome since EIA is also forecasting Henry Hub natural gas prices will rise 87 percent by 2020. If domestic prices rise to global levels long-term, the U.S. will have lost its competitive advantage, and the incentive to invest in the U.S. would be gone and on-shoring would stop.
While Japan and EU leaders have signed an MOU on a major trade deal, the U.S. is giving away LNG to countries without considering bilateral negotiations to open those markets to U.S. manufactured goods. This is inconsistent with President Trump's fair-trade and "America First" policies. LNG exports lower other countries' natural gas costs and increase natural gas and electricity costs for domestic consumers long-term.
The common-sense policy is to be cautious as to how many terminals are constructed over time and put consumer safeguards in place. We should learn from the mistakes of Australia whose domestic consumers are paying exorbitant natural gas prices due to LNG exports. If we do not act prudently, and prices rise, it will put trillions of dollars of manufacturing assets at risk. This is an unacceptable gamble.
Paul N. Cicio is President of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America.
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