It isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but considering the Obama administration's loathing of non-green energy sources, the news that a Texas company may soon be allowed to ship natural gas overseas is cause for some celebration.
The United States is awash in natural gas, which has depressed the market and led natural gas companies in Oklahoma and elsewhere to direct more of their resources toward finding and producing oil. However, the demand for natural gas is great overseas.
The administration has been cool to the idea of approving construction of liquefied natural gas export facilities, something U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, has sought to change. The cold shoulder toward LNG is a bow to environmentalists who, as part of their anti-fossil fuel efforts, have fought any move to establish these facilities.
But last week the Energy Department gave conditional approval to a plan to let Freeport LNG Expansion L.P. export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of LNG per day from its terminal south of Houston. It's only the second such project to win the administration's approval; the other was for a terminal in Louisiana.
More than 20 other proposals are on the table from energy companies eager to tap the overseas market. Clearing the backlog could result in about 40 percent of the current U.S. natural gas production being exported. This could eventually push natural gas prices up, which would pinch consumers but also would benefit Oklahoma companies and state revenues.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, has asked Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to OK the other applications and allow markets — not the federal government — to determine appropriate export levels. He called last week's news “a step in the right direction, but it's only a step.”
He's right. Considering the source, though, it's perhaps a significant step.