U.S. natural-gas exports have long proven controversial. Now that conflict has erupted between Ukraine and Russia, however, export backers have intensified calls for the feds to lift restrictions on shipments of liquefied-natural gas abroad. Is there a diplomatic casefor increasing gas exports?
Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for a steady supply of natural gas, and Russia has threatened to halt gas deliveries to the continent as tensions rise. Conservatives on Capitol Hill, including Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, say the U.S. response to the Ukraine conflict should include provisions to lift export restrictions. Barrasso and House Republicans, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, have said that such a move could erode Russia's iron grip over Europe's energy supply.
But even if federal roadblocks to LNG exports were removed, it would take time for shipments to get out the door. The earliest gas exports from U.S. terminals are not expected to begin until 2015. And markets, not politics, will dictate the destination of those shipments when they finally begin.
Despite the fact that policy changes wouldn't result in an immediate flood of natural-gas exports, is there a diplomatic case for opening up gas exports, or should current policies be left in place? Would LNG exports hurt or help? What's at stake in the current debate—for U.S. diplomatic relations, the economy, and the environment?
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