A drilling boom has lowered natural gas prices while boosting production by one-third since 2005. Production reached a high of 25.3 trillion cubic feet last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
But production has begun to level off as the natural gas glut keeps U.S. prices down. Producers have pushed to export to Europe and Asia, where prices are higher. Approval of projects under review by the Energy Department could result in export of more than 40 percent of current U.S. natural gas production. The gas would be chilled to liquid form before being exported on tanker ships.
Marty Durbin, president and CEO of America's Natural Gas Alliance, an industry group, and Michael Smith, CEO of Freeport LNG, said expanded natural gas exports would help create jobs, stimulate the economy, and improve the U.S. balance of trade.
Consumer groups and some manufacturers that use natural gas oppose expanded exports, saying they could drive up domestic prices. Many environmental groups also oppose LNG exports, fearing more drilling could lead to environmental damage.
CONTRIBUTING: Chris Casteel, Washington Bureau
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