Editorial: Moratorium on LNG development will do more harm than good

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President Joe Biden last week imposed a moratorium on the development of liquefied natural gas terminals in the U.S., citing their contribution to greenhouse gases.

It’s an obvious effort to raise the support of young voters — and a poorly thought-out one at that.

“We will heed the calls of young people and frontline communities,” Biden said in a statement issued Jan. 26, saying they understand “the urgency of the climate crisis.”

Fortunately, the order doesn’t affect LNG export terminals that already have been approved, including two at the Port of Brownsville that are far enough along in development that they can continue. It does, however, immediately stop work on 12 other projects across the country, including Corpus Christi and Port Arthur.

This political move, however, likely will end up doing more harm to this country and its national interests, and worsen conditions in other countries. It promises to be a boon for Russia and its war against Ukraine, whose resistance our country already is spending billions of dollars to support.

Administration officials say they haven’t determined if or how the moratorium will affect our national economy, or how much effect if will really have on greenhouse gas emissions. In this day of bloated, numbers-crunching bureaucracy, it’s more likely that they have the information, but fear it might hurt Biden’s reelection campaign rather than help it.

LNG is a relatively new commodity but is rapidly replacing coal as the primary fuel for energy production. Natural gas already fuels nearly half of all power generated in Texas.

U.S. companies began exporting LNG eight years ago, and already is the world’s largest exporter. Russia is second. Global demand for U.S. LNG has been increasing rapidly, and even more since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Analysts noted quickly after the moratorium that if other countries can’t rely on the U.S. for its fuel, it will see little recourse than to go to the next supplier — Russia — and that revenue will help in that country’s war effort against Ukraine.

A view of the Port of Brownsville ship channel Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Houston-based NextDecade Corporation says it expects to make a decision the first quarter of this year whether to build the first phase of its planned Rio Grande LNG facility at the Port of Brownsville, north of the ship channel. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

Critics of Biden’s order already have called it a “win for Russia.”

The president is wrong to assume that he can force any country — including our own — to go green overnight with the simple stroke of a pen. He has even less control over foreign, autonomous countries, most of which aren’t as affluent as ours and can’t make such major changes in short measure. They’ll continue to use the resources to have, and buy fuel wherever they can — including Russia.

It’s worth noting that most of the LNG demand comes from countries that are friendly to the United States. A pipeline already runs from the Valley into Mexico to help feed that country’s demand.

Ordering a halt to new development of a commodity that is in high demand, and growing, curtails revenue that could be used in this country to fund major projects — including infrastructure improvements that Biden claims to support.

Our public officials need to stop hurting our national economy, and our national interests, for their own political purposes — especially when, as in this case, such policies not only harm this country but provides support to a country that many consider to be our enemy.