The Hidden Dangers Behind the LNG Boom

Oil and gas companies tout liquified natural gas, known simply as LNG, as a greener fossil fuel. It heats homes and runs power plants. But is it greener?

Derived from cooling natural gas, the fossil fuel industry views LNG as a bridge fuel. A joint report titled Methane Madness by Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, and BailoutWatch looks at eight proposed LNG projects the Biden administration has yet to approve. The projects would expand LNG export capacity into the Asia Pacific region. If built, the projects would produce the annual equivalent of 113 coal plants in greenhouse gas emissions.

While none of the eight projects have all the permits from the federal government they need to proceed, they are presently locking in contracts with customers. The New York Times reports that the Biden administration paused a decision on whether to approve the eight projects. The Energy Department will evaluate the projects and consider their impact on climate change. The fossil fuel companies cannot proceed without final approval from the Energy Department. The Natural Gas Act, which was passed in 1938, requires the federal agency to consider whether new export permits are in the public interest.

The LNG Boom and Climate Change

The U.S. is amid an LNG boom. In 2023, the U.S. became the world’s leading liquefied natural gas exporter. Experts predict that North American LNG exports will double by 2028. In 2016, the first major American-made LNG export left a port in Louisiana. By 2023, the U.S. was the world’s leading LNG exporter. Until 2016, the federal government banned the export of LNG.

Fossil fuel companies practice greenwashing with abandon regarding LNG. Chevron refers to natural gas as a “cleaner-burning fuel.” The Center for LNG claims that the impact of natural gas “has been largely positive over the last two decades,” and the use of LNG contributed to “reduced carbon emissions.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) touts LNG as a fuel that will help lower emissions. The fossil fuel group claims that natural gas emits “50 percent less carbon than coal, and the switch from coal to natural gas in the power sector is a key reason the U.S. leads the world in reducing carbon emissions.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration describes natural gas as “mainly methane,” which has a warming potential around 80 times that of carbon. In 2021, carbon emissions from the combustion of natural gas for energy comprised about 34 percent of total U.S. energy-related emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas contributes to climate change, whatever its form. Burning gas for energy emits carbon, which contributes to global warming. Every part of the life cycle of natural gas emits methane.

Cornell University research released in November 2023 found that the total emissions from LNG are greater than those from American-produced coal.

Robert W. Haworth, the lead researcher, concluded that “the need to move away from the use of liquefied natural gas as a fuel as quickly as possible and to immediately stop construction of any new LNG infrastructure.” In other words, LNG has no benefits for climate change, and the dangers are many.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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