U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities, Uncertain Outcomes [November 4, 2011]   [open pdf - 817KB]

"As estimates for the amount of U.S. natural gas resources have grown, so have the prospects of rising U.S. natural gas exports. Projects to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) have been proposed - cumulatively accounting for about 12.5% of current U.S. natural gas production - and are at varying stages of regulatory approval. Projects require federal approval according to Section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (15 U.S.C. §717b) with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission being the lead authorizing agencies. Pipeline exports, which accounted for 94% of all exports of U.S. produced natural gas in 2010, are also likely to rise. What effect exporting natural gas will have on U.S. prices is the central question in the debate of whether to export or not to export. [...] Electric power generation represents potentially the greatest increase in natural gas consumption in the U.S. economy, primarily for environmental reasons. Natural gas emits much less carbon dioxide and other pollutants than coal when combusted. [...] The possibility of a significant increase in U.S. natural gas exports will factor into ongoing debates on the economy, energy independence, climate change, and energy security. As the proposed projects continue to develop, policymakers are likely to receive more inquiries about these projects."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42074
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