Climate Groups Slam Biden Energy Department for Increasing LNG Exports

Climate action advocates this week sharply criticized the Biden administration for signing off on increasing gas exports from the United States as Europe faces supply problems exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on Wednesday issued two long-term orders giving a pair of Cheniere Energy projects in Louisiana and Texas “additional flexibility to export the equivalent of 0.72 billion cubic feet per day” of liquefied natural gas (LNG) “to any country with which the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement, including all of Europe.”

As Cheniere welcomed the move, saying in a statement that “we appreciate the DOE granting this authorization for export to non-FTA countries,” Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner Ashley Thomson slammed the authorizations as a betrayal of President Joe Biden’s climate pledges.

“Peace will only come through accelerating the transition to renewable energy, not by trading Russian oligarchs for American oil and gas barons,” Thomson said. “The Biden administration’s decision to increase gas exports empowers the same Big Oil companies that are fueling conflicts around the world and are responsible for skyrocketing gas prices.”

“President Biden has an opportunity to make good on his climate promises while delivering a healthier, just, and peaceful future,” she added. “This starts by declaring a climate emergency and using the Defense Production Act to ramp up the delivery of renewable and energy-efficient equipment to Europe.”

Shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, climate activist Bill McKibben argued that “Biden should immediately invoke the Defense Production Act to get American manufacturers to start producing electric heat pumps in quantity, so we can ship them to Europe.”

As Common Dreams reported last week, the White House is “seriously considering” the proposal. However, in the meantime, the Biden administration has apparently decided to boost gas exports.

The U.S.-based Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) coalition tweeted Wednesday that “exporting more U.S. gas is not a viable option to solve Europe’s energy crisis.”

“New gas infrastructure will take years to come online and won’t help the current crisis,” the coalition continued. “It will only deepen global dependence on fossil fuels, further empowering Russia and damaging the climate.”

“Putin’s actions underscore the need to electrify everything,” the coalition added. “We must speed up the production of cheaper, cleaner energy — like wind, solar, and electric vehicles — that will help lower prices and create real energy independence.”

Helene Bourges, head of Greenpeace France’s fossil fuel campaign, made a similar argument earlier this month, noting that “Europe’s gas dependence is funding Putin’s war machine.”

“We already have the technologies we need to end our dependence on gas,” she said. “All we need is the political will of the E.U. to carry out an unprecedented program to free Europe from its gas dependence.”

Climate campaigners have long argued against treating gas as a so-called “bridge fuel” to a renewable energy future, pointing to scientists’ and industry experts’ warnings about the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground to prevent the most catastrophic effects of human-caused global heating.

The DOE, meanwhile, highlighted Wednesday that “the U.S. is now the top global exporter of LNG and exports are set to grow an additional 20% beyond current levels by the end of this year as additional capacity comes online.”

The department also said that “U.S. LNG remains an important component to global energy security, and DOE remains committed to finding ways to help our allies and trading partners with the energy supplies they need while continuing to work to mitigate the impact of climate change.”

By contrast, the Green New Deal Network declared this week that “increasing U.S. LNG exports is essential to worsening long-term national security risks, manufacturing demand, and leading us toward a lifeless future.”