Biden’s gas export pause acknowledges threat of methane
Recent news that President Biden will pause approval of new “natural” gas export facilities is a significant win in the fight for a clean energy future, and a big setback in the fossil fuel industry’s ongoing campaign to mislead the public about methane gas.
Through decades of advertising and political lobbying, the oil and gas industry has convinced large swaths of the public that “natural” gas is clean, safe and a “bridge fuel” to clean energy. Those claims have continued in recent years, even as wind and solar power became the cheapest sources of new electricity. And the evidence keeps piling up that gas harms our health, our climate, our energy bills and communities near fracking, pipelines and export facilities.
The President’s move to pause permitting for new liquefied gas (LNG) export facilities shows that the harms of methane are now getting too obvious for decisionmakers to ignore. That’s thanks to years of work by advocates fighting the expansion of methane gas — particularly Gulf Coast communities who have been fighting for years to protect their friends and families from polluting gas export facilities.
White House acknowledges: LNG is methane
Following the announcement, the White House released social media highlighting the fact that natural gas = methane. This marks a huge turning point in the public discussion about this fossil fuel, and an official recognition that gas isn’t the clean energy source the industry portrays.
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Last year Gas Leaks asked people about this issue on the streets of New York City, and found that very few people were aware of the connection between “natural” gas and planet-warming methane, despite the fact that they’re the same thing!
The methane fight isn’t over
The decision to pause new gas export approvals is only the start of a bigger fight. The Department of Energy is now reexamining the criteria it considers when determining if new export projects are “in the public interest” — a requirement before any new export facility can operate.
As Gas Leaks Program Director Caleb Heeringa highlighted in a recent Vox article, the federal review is an important opportunity to make the harms of methane gas clear to our leaders.
“This is an important step … it’s unlikely if you take an honest assessment of these facilities’ impact that you can come to the conclusion that it’s in the public interest.”
Despite the bluster over the Biden Administration’s announcement, the decision doesn’t impact LNG projects that are already permitted or under construction. The US is already the world’s largest exporter of gas and the fossil fuel industry is still on track to double our export capacity, by building facilities that disproportionately impact Black communities that already live with elevated levels of pollution.
It’s vital that we stand with local leaders that are fighting back against these polluting proposals, which would lock in fossil fuel dependence around the world for decades to come and raise Americans’ monthly energy bills.