U.S. Natural Gas Exports: New Opportunities, Uncertain Outcomes [January 28, 2015] [open pdf - 766KB]
"As estimates for the amount of U.S. natural gas resources have grown, so have the prospects of rising U.S. natural gas exports. The United States is expected to go from a net importer of natural gas to a net exporter by 2016. With recent natural gas prices relatively low compared to global prices and historically low for the United States, producers are looking for new markets for their natural gas. Projects to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tanker ship have been proposed--cumulatively accounting for over 60% of current gross U.S. natural gas production. Pipeline exports, which accounted for 99% of all exports of U.S. natural gas in 2013, are also likely to continue rising. However, under the Natural Gas Act, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must authorize the export of the natural gas commodity and related facilities, respectively. This overarching federal role in the expansion of U.S. natural gas exports has been the subject of ongoing oversight and debate in Congress. […] Environmental groups are split regarding natural gas use, with some favoring increased use to curb emissions of certain pollutants, while others oppose expanded use of natural gas because it is not as clean as renewable forms of energy, such as wind or solar. The use of hydraulic fracturing to produce shale gas for export markets has also raised concerns among environmental groups particularly concerned with its possible impacts on groundwater quality. 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."
CRS Report for Congress, R42074