LNG Exports Offer Path Away from OPEC Domination of Energy Markets

The increased use of natural gas and the furtherance of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) exports hold the potential to cement the United States as a global energy frontrunner.  The United States contains an enormous supply of natural gas and allowing LNG exports would result in increased market liquidity, thereby potentially lowering the risk and cost of capital for drillers.  And now, perhaps more than ever, exporting LNG would promote the development of a domestic resource that could help make the United States immune to OPEC market manipulation.  Domestic and geopolitical dynamics make the situation ripe for harnessing the United States’ abundance of natural gas and consequently, exporting LNG.  Studies indicate that domestic reserves may supply the United States for approximately the next eighty-five years at a consumption rate of 26 trillion cubic feet (“Tcf”) per year.[1]    Aside from holding vast natural gas reserves, the United States is the undisputed leader in unconventional shale development with the infrastructure to support further natural gas development.  Furthermore, LNG exports could help produce liquidity in global LNG markets through the provision of additional natural gas resources to other nations and also potentially further reduce the natural gas trade deficit.  LNG exports would also create thousands of jobs for Americans and yield significant environmental benefits.The global implications of LNG exports make them all the more exigent.  OPEC continues to flood the market with oil in a manner that will eventually threaten the stability of American exploration and production companies.[2]   Exporting LNG would allow the United States to use its natural gas reserves as a geopolitical tool to help its Eastern European allies.[3]  Furthermore, many Asian countries simply desire American LNG supplies, because although they are working to diversify their energy sources and harness their own domestic resources, they remain dependent on gas imports, seek cleaner energy sources, and lack the technical capacity/physical infrastructure to tap into their own domestic sources.[4]Claudia Duncan, Thompson & Knight LLP[1]Frequently Asked Questions: How Much Natural Gas Does the United States Have and How Long Will It Last?, U.S. Energy Info. Admin. (Last updated Dec. 3, 2014), available athttp://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=58&t=8; CHARLES EBINGER ET AL., BROOKINGS ENERGY SECURITY INITIATIVE, LIQUID MARKETS:ASSESSING THE CASE FOR U.S. EXPORTS OF LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS vi, 4-5 (2012).[2]OPEC 166th Meeting Concludes, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/press_room/2938.htm.[3] Andrew E. Kramer, Russia Cuts Gas, and Europe Shivers, N.Y. TIMES(Jan. 6, 2009), http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/world/europe/07gazprom.html?pagewanted=all (describing the 2009 Russian gas cut).[4]Oil and Gas Reality Check 2014: A Look at the Top Issues Facing the Oil and Gas Sector, Deloitte, 5, 7, 10, 11, 12, 17, available athttp://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/Energy-and-Resources/gx-er-oilgas-realitycheck.pdf; CHARLES EBINGER ET AL., BROOKINGS ENERGY SECURITY INITIATIVE, LIQUID MARKETS:ASSESSING THE CASE FOR U.S. EXPORTS OF LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS, 21-23 (2012).