Europe wants American natural gas. That could drive up US prices.

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An alternative to Europe’s sudden need for Russian energy is sparking a boom in the United States, the world’s second-largest exporter of natural gas that is liquefied and shipped overseas. Jackie Johnson, whose side business is raising Black Angus cattle recently turned into a financial sinkhole as gas prices went up.

The fertilizer needed to grow hay on J2 Cattle Farm, his 150-acre operation in Trinity, NC, three times what it did last year, because natural gas is a central ingredient in methane. The chemicals that keep weeds from destroying Johnson’s hay? Also made from natural gas, and now exorbitantly expensive.

“If this were my primary income, there is no way I could make it,” the 44-year-old electrical engineer said. “I can’t even break.”

Kremlin’s decision to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, a move that sent soaring gas prices to Europe . Already, Russia’s invasion of the United States of America has sent every molecule of natural gas that can be shipped, accounting for about 20 percent of the US supply. The industry plans for almost double exports.

The GOP’s most fervent drilling enthusiasts, including A Broad Coalition, Biden White House energy advisers and the US Chamber of Commerce contend there will be plenty of gas to go around. A growth in shipments overseas, they say, will drive more gas production at home and help avoid the price shocks that consumers are now confronting, with US homeowners seeing their gas bills up more than 25 percent last year.

Yet some large fertilizer manufacturing operations, chemical plants and consumer groups are such assurances.

“You can’t just open the floodgates and keep exporting more gas for a safety net for the US consumer,” said Paul Cicio, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, a trade group representing manufacturers of fertilizers, chemicals and other natural gas on products. “But that’s what’s going on.”

The gas industry’s expansion plans will lock in contracts for American exports, with most of the fuel going to China and elsewhere in Asia. At a time when the United States is gripped by inflation, driven by no small part in energy shortages at home and abroad, how to sell long-range plans to more than a third of American gas to foreign customers. Washington and blurring ideological lines in scrambling alliances.

Fossil fuels on prolong reliance that threatens curb exports Also on their side are left-leaning consumer groups like Public Citizen, which for years have been lobbied against exports of natural gas, warning of the kind of price spikes low-income consumers are struggling with.

“In terms of climate policy, we could not be further apart, but we are right next to them in our nation’s gas infrastructure,” said Clark Williams-Derry, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics. and Financial Analysis, a liberal think tank echoing Cicio’s warnings about gas costs.

During the pandemic, natural gas was in demand for all the usual places: industry, power plants, and home and business furnaces and stoves, According to figures from the Energy Information Agency. The notable exception was exports. As they expanded, prices kept going up.

“What we need to worry about is getting worse from this,” Williams-Derry said. “We are deep in a hole. We need to stop pretending that new liquefied natural gas export terminals have no effect on our customers. ”

Energy industry and Biden administration officials take issue with that. They say it ignores all manner of factors that keep natural gas prices inflated, including a significant cutback in recent years and efforts to isolate Russia. A robust export market, their argument goes, would lead to more natural gas infrastructure being built, boosting supply and not just a domestic market.

“There is an ability to provide even more gas domestically,” said Marty Durbin, who heads the Global Energy Institute at the US Chamber of Commerce. “The resource here is so vast that if we have the right infrastructure, we would be able to produce even more.”

Economists and gas industry experts have wildly varying views on who is right. Fuel prices in the direction of projecting are out of a gamble. The biggest exporter of North American natural gas to Europe right now, Cheniere Energy, had the initial bet that the United States would not be exporting much of the gas at all, but importing it. The Sabine Pass facility that was built in Louisiana to handle the imports of the United States when it was bankruptcy in the shale boom of natural gas. The facility has since been converted to a hub of Cheniere’s now-booming export business.

The argument is that more and more exports will drive down costs through the halls of Congress, where Republicans are pressing for the Biden administration to ease environmental restrictions on pipeline construction and other infrastructure they say are constraining the nation’s natural gas supply. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who is an eager to see energy companies expand their exports from his state’s Gulf Coast, has argued repeatedly that they would lower energy prices for Americans. More exports are a planner of a pillar and 18 other GOP senators are promoting a lower-cost fertilizer.

The Industrial Energy Consumers have a very different plan: they want guardrails that curb exports at the moment when the natural gas drop of American inventories is steeply. GOP lawmakers, predictably, oppose burdening the energy industry with such restrictions. But the Republican reasoning also resonates with some on the left.

Improving the kind of guardrails demanded by industrial energy consumers “would mean we could be a reliable supplier,” said Samantha Gross, a fellow specializing in climate and energy at the Brookings Institution. While many major environmental groups would rather use natural gas altogether, the Gross Arguments would help fuel the fuel economy and provide energy security to allies and in the event of a coal-fired alternative to China.

“It’s easy to say, ‘If we export more, prices will go up,'” Gross said. “All other things being equal, sure. But all other things will remain equal. ”

Yet others are disappointed to see the Biden administration so eagerly pivoting to the industry’s position. A group of 10 senators from New England and the Midwest warned in a February letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm that the export enthusiasm hurts consumers with soaring home heating bills.

“This is nothing but economics,” said one of the co-authors, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), in-floor debate last month. He laid out how the United States went from exporting no natural gas to its supply seven years ago today.

“With the plants that have been approved, it is going to go up to 25, 30 or 35 percent,” King said. “That is going to impact prices here.”

Even within the gas industry, the message is not always consistent. Public utilities aligned with large multinational energy companies investing in large exports abroad, such as Sempra subsidiary Southern California Gas, have raised doubts about its impact on consumer prices. Yet, the price of natural gas as one of the most expensive exports of natural gas in the world has risen.

Back in the farming community, alliances are also unpredictable. One activist who fertilizer manufacturers and consumer advocates are fighting the gas exports to join their coalition isn’t buying into talking points.

Fourth-generation cattle and grain farmer Darvin Bentlage of Barton County, Mo., has long warned that multinational corporations are destroying local agriculture, including a piece he co-authored for The Nation magazine last year. But he is a skeptic of fertilizer company claims that natural gas executives are chasing profits abroad as he and Jackie Johnson can afford to buy the product.

Bentlage blames the fertilizer industry’s own sprint to boost its bottom line amid industry consolidation that has made the product less competitive.

“Their profit margins are jumping,” Bentlage said. “It’s always a good excuse to blame it on someone else. … It’s smoke and mirrors. ”

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