To other countries
Say yes to LNG: Exporting natural gas from Cove Point would benefit Maryland and the nation
The debate about whether the United States should export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Cove Point and other waterfront terminals has been going on for months. It is time for action.Sell more gas, create more jobs.
The United States has an abundance of cheap natural gas, thanks to a revolution in gas production. An innovative technique that combines hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has opened up geologic formations containing billions of cubic feet of gas. The supply of natural gas soared, while demand did not keep pace, leading to a collapse in natural gas prices. This is good for consumers in the short run but has forced many energy companies to either shut down their drilling rigs or to switch to oil production.
Insufficient domestic demand for natural gas and inadequate storage capacity have led energy companies to search for other markets, specifically in Europe and Asia. Selling to overseas markets could shore up the price of natural gas and sustain domestic gas production, thus stimulating the economy and creating jobs and revenue. Also, a better match of supply and demand may decrease price volatility.
Currently, only one company, Cheniere Energy, has received permits to export LNG. Cheniere is building an LNG export facility at Sabine Pass in Louisiana and has been cleared to export gas for 20 years, beginning in 2015. More than a dozen other natural gas companies have applied for export permits; almost all intend to build LNG terminals on the Gulf Coast.Our relatively feeble tropical storms have not significantly impacted the Cove Point Gas Docks during the period that I have lived here. The enclosed nature of the Bay prevents waves large enough to threaten such a huge structure from forming.
Clustering LNG terminals on the Gulf has some disadvantages. In recent years, energy facilities off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas have sustained significant damage from hurricanes, with oil and gas rigs and refineries going off line for weeks at a time. By contrast, the Chesapeake Bay has been relatively calm, with big energy facilities like the Cove Point terminal and the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant able to operate without interruption.
Due to the abundance of shale gas, electric utilities are shifting from coal to natural gas, which improves air quality and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. Counterintuitively, the Sierra Club has taken legal action to block LNG exports from Cove Point. Ostensibly, the environmental group opposes increased shale-gas production because renewable energy sources like solar and wind will be unable to compete economically with natural gas. But renewable energy sources are intermittent. Solar photovoltaics and wind turbines only produce electricity when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Natural gas electrical generation plants can operate continually, regardless of weather conditions.Remember, it's not so much that they like nature, they just hate people...
The naysayers claim to be acting in the public interest. But without the shale-gas revolution, we will continue to burn large amounts of coal and rely on gas from politically unstable parts of the world. The Department of Energy should expedite approval of LNG export permits, starting with Cove Point. It is in our state and national interest to proceed without further delay.
And besides, as long as that giant fish attractor is going to sit out in the Bay unavailable to fishermen, it might as well get used for it's original purpose.