Are Environmentalists Digging Their Own Fracking Hole in Opposing Natural Gas Exports?

In a pair of articles, The Hill's energy and environment blogger Timothy Cara looks at political efforts to increase natural gas exports to Europe on account of Russia's annexation of Crimea, part of Ukraine, and environmental groups opposed to it.

2 minute read

March 24, 2014, 12:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"The Department of Energy may consider Russia's energy influence in Eastern Europe as it reviews (20) applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) there, Secretary Ernest Moniz said Friday (March 21)," writes Timothy Cama.

Republicans have urged quick approval of export applications as a way to undercut Russia and reduce the influence it wields by being the chief exporter of natural gas in Eastern Europe.

A day earlier, Cara wrote in a related article that "(t)he GOP position appears to have gained traction, with The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal [and USA Todayall endorsing increased exports in the context of reducing Russia’s influence and power in Europe", though Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) wrote a letter in opposition to The New York Times. The Post didn't mince words:

DEBATE HAS raged over whether the United States can fight Vladimir Putin on the Russian president’s most favorable ground: energy politics. It can, and it should, particularly because there’s an obvious path forward that coincides with the United States’ — indeed, the world’s — economic interests. That path is lifting irrational restrictions on exports and making it easier to build natural gas export terminals.

However, environment groups see the drive to lift the restrictions and build new LNG export terminals as just another excuse to increase natural gas fracking - which they are strongly opposed to. They have "pressure(d) Obama to reject expansion of natural gas exports", Cara wrote earlier.

“The proposed Cove Point LNG terminal would certainly make gas companies richer, but it would make our own country more poor,” Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club, told reporters Tuesday. “Building a new LNG terminal doesn’t strengthen our nation, and it further disrupts our climate.”

That position hasn't gone over well with the White House's new advisor, John Podesta, previously with liberal think tank, Center for American Progress, known for championing environmental causes like fighting climate change.

Podesta said the environmental groups who are concerned completely oppose fossil fuels and want to immediately stop all fossil fuel use. “That’s a pretty impractical way of moving towards a clean energy future,” he said.

Friday, March 21, 2014 in The Hill

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