Liquid Natural Gas Expansion Will Be a Climate Setback

Liquid Natural Gas Expansion Will Be a Climate Setback

Following the war in Ukraine and subsequent rising gas prices, the desire to get off Russian fossil fuel supply has motivated the US to massively expand liquified natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. The expansion, made up of 25 proposed and in-development fossil fuel projects, will have long-reaching climate impacts if completed, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP). Pollution from these projects would be equivalent to about a year of climate-damaging emissions from 18 million cars -- more than from all the cars and trucks in Florida or New York State. Of note, emissions estimates do not include the environmental cost of fracking to access gas or its eventual use -- they are for operating the terminals only.

The new expansion projects are to be built in places that are already home to (and being damaged by) fossil fuel infrastructures. In addition to four export terminals in Texas and Louisiana currently being built, six new terminals and three expansions have been permitted in Louisiana, Texas, and Florida.

Forbes: Biden Announces US Reached Liquefied Natural Gas Deal With EU To Reduce Europe’s Reliance On Russia, March 25, 2022.

YaleConnections360: The Product | LNG and Energy's Perfect Storm, December 20, 2021.

Why This Matters

Production of LNG in the US skyrocketed with the fracking boom of the last decade, a time when we know carbon emissions need to go down, not up. This May, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels broke a new record at 421 million parts per million (ppm), the highest level seen in around 4 million years. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels, including LNG, is incompatible with a habitable planet.

"Although there is pressure to hurry up approvals of these LNG projects, government regulators should be careful and thoughtful in considering their significant environmental impacts,” Alexandra Shaykevich, an EIP research manager, said in a statement. "A dramatic increase in global dependence on LNG could be risky, from a climate perspective.”

ABC (Australia): Big new gas project prompts climate concerns, June 9, 2022.

Cleo Abram: Fracking for Clean Energy. Wait, What?, January 18, 2022.

IEEFA: Are gas and LNG investments safe?, December 1, 2021.

Another Way Forward

The investments in energy infrastructure made now will have impacts for decades down the line, and LNG isn’t the only route policymakers can take. A recent study published in Science showed that it’s technologically and financially possible for the US to transition to clean energy and cut emissions in half by the end of the decade. The researchers even offered a roadmap focused on electricity and transportation, the two most carbon-intensive sectors in the US.

Meeting electricity demand will require building more renewable infrastructure -- to the tune of about 800 gigawatts of capacity between now and 2030. To achieve that, around 80% of electricity produced in the US would need to come from solar, wind, or other renewable sources.

"With the right policies and infrastructure, we can reduce our emissions while saving American consumers billions of dollars and generating new employment,” said Nikit Abhanyanhar, author of the study providing a roadmap, in a statement.

TED: How to Realistically Decarbonize the Oil and Gas Industry | Bjørn Sverdrup, March 3, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas, March 3, 2022.