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.