C. Boyden Gray | Natural gas and our Winston Churchill moment

Thanks to America’s vast, unexpected new natural-gas supplies, the nation  faces a once-in-a-lifetime choice. Not since 1911, when Winston  Churchill, then Britain’s first lord of the Admiralty, decided to convert  the Royal Navy from coal to oil power has a  nation seen such an opportunity to choose a new “master resource” (as the  economist Julian Simon put it), and in so  doing chart a new economic and strategic course.

But the British had Churchill.  America’s energy future, by contrast, may well be decided by a combination of  politically powerful industry groups and environmental activists determined to  impede the nation’s development of cheap, clean natural gas reserves. This seems  like an odd team — the environmentalists want to prevent the natural gas from  being developed at all; manufacturers and other industry players want the gas  out of the ground but kept in the U.S. for their exclusive use. Either way, the  result is the same — no exports.

Most recently, these forces criticize the Department  of Energy’s new economic and environmental analysis of possible liquefied  natural gas (LNG) exports, and calling on DOE’s  Energy Information Administration to do the entire 16-month study over. And  they demand that the overhauled study incorporate assumptions more conducive to  the critics’ bottom line — namely, to block LNG exports and, in turn, shale gas  development.


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