- Trends in Energy
- Extreme Pressure
This Week's Trend In Brief:
Since the first LNG cargo left Sabine Pass in 2016, American LNG exports have provided the world with cleaner burning fuel that reduced carbon emissions, drove economic growth, and supported global energy security.
This reality would seem to match well with Biden’s stated policy priorities of expanded economic opportunity for everyone, ensuring the security of our European allies, and moving towards a net-zero climate goal Biden himself acknowledged not too long ago, is “consistent with, not in conflict with,” exporting LNG.
Yet last week’s decision to pause the export licensing process for new LNG facilities, which shocked both the energy industry and key U.S. allies, was an “obviously political decision” that was as damaging as it was predictable.
As we warned last fall, activists have led a coordinated, professionalized campaign to pressure Biden’s administration to stop LNG exports, and even after securing this pause, next week they still plan several days of protests outside the U.S. Department of Energy to demand more action.
Biden’s move is a stark reminder that climate and energy policies are very much on the ballot this year, and to win re-election, Biden will need to fire up environmental organizations that drive turnout among progressive voters.
Public affairs professionals supporting industry must ensure they have the right tools to stay ahead of the policy impact that campaign reality may bring while ensuring facts and reality shape the debate.
Since the first LNG cargo left Louisiana nearly eight years ago, American LNG exports have provided the world with cleaner burning fuel that reduced carbon emissions, drove economic growth, and supported global energy security. American LNG, which many view as “the cleanest in the world,” produces 40 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and 30 percent less than oil, making it the cleanest of the fossil fuels. The U.S. Department of Energy says natural gas and LNG “enable economic development and stimulate further investment in national infrastructure.” Plus, LNG producers in the U.S., which was the top exporter of LNG in 2023, are striving to ensure the fuel and its related technologies focus on further reducing emissions and lowering the carbon intensity of both production and transportation while addressing global energy security.
The realities of LNG would seem to match well with Biden’s stated policy priorities of expanding economic opportunity while supporting our allies and meeting climate goals. Less than two years ago, Biden called LNG “consistent with, not in conflict with, the net-zero climate goal that we’re shooting for.” Biden’s remarks came less than a month after his administration boosted efforts to increase U.S. LNG exports to support allies and increase global energy security. The Biden Administration held talks a year later with international energy companies and foreign officials to advance LNG sustainability. Biden’s Assistant Energy Secretary Brad Crabtree even argued LNG expansion was a priority for the administration to ensure global energy security “in a way that is climate responsible.”
Yet last week’s decision to pause the consideration of export licenses for new LNG facilities, which shocked both the energy industry and key U.S. allies, should not have come as a surprise to close observers. For the past several months, activists have applied major pressure on Biden to halt all LNG projects. 350.org founder and Keystone XL obstructionist Bill McKibben penned several op-eds targeting LNG and demanding the Biden Administration halt LNG projects. In each of his op-eds, McKibben called for “public interest” reviews into LNG projects, claiming, “Any new LNG facilities will fail a fair ‘public interest’ assessment.” Groups like the Sierra Club and Earthjustice joined McKibben in the pressure campaign. Ultimately, more than 230 climate activist organizations demanded Biden reject a proposed LNG facility on “public interest” grounds. After Biden halted the review process, these same groups declared victory. The White House even promoted a victory declaration from the activist group Climate Defiance in an official press release, highlighting the group’s claim Biden’s decision was “a big step towards banning all new gas exports.”
As we warned last fall, activists have led a coordinated, professionalized campaign to pressure Biden’s administration on LNG exports, and even after the pause, they still plan disruptive protests at the U.S. Department of Energy next week to maintain pressure. Much of the activist coordination came after Michael Bloomberg launched his $85 million “Beyond Petrochemicals” campaign in 2022, which infused local activist groups in the Gulf region with major resources they have used to combat energy facilities in the region and beyond. These activist groups’ latest target is Venture Global’s proposed CP2 LNG export facility, leveraging funding and strategies from Bloomberg and others to turn CP2 into a focal point for opposing all LNG facilities in the U.S. National environmental groups have their back as well. The Sierra Club, for example, marshalled supporters to pressure officials and even led local activist groups in filing a lawsuit to block construction of the facility. After the Biden Administration announced it would pause the permitting process for LNG facilities, these activist groups declared victory, but they are only getting started. Next week, activists plan to block the entrance to the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, DC for several days to demand an end to LNG entirely.
Biden’s move is a stark reminder that climate and energy policies are very much on the ballot this year, and to win re-election, Biden will need to fire up the environmental organizations who drive turnout among his dissatisfied base. As The Washington Post’s Editorial Board noted, the Biden Administration’s decision to pause the LNG permitting process was “obviously political,” coming as it did after the administration approved the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, “much to the dismay of the young environmentalists.” Now, climate activists like Bill McKibben argue “Biden rode into office on the back of young people eager for action on climate and environmental justice” and halting LNG export expansion is necessary to “deliver those backers an enormous victory” and secure Biden’s place at the ballot box. Indeed, as Americans prepare to vote in 6,477 elections for federal and state offices, plus tens of thousands more at the local level, the future of major energy developments, not only LNG, is at stake, and activists are mobilizing to ensure they achieve their desired results.
Public affairs professionals supporting the energy industry must ensure they have the right tools to stay ahead of the policy impact this campaign reality may bring while ensuring facts and reality shape the debate. To stop activists from delaying or disrupting LNG projects that advance America’s national security and climate goals, public affairs professionals must understand who these groups are, how they operate, and what action they will take next. At Delve, we ensure public affairs professionals operate with an information advantage to stay ahead of these pressures. LNG companies and those that support them can leverage our proven playbook to gain the understandings that form the basis for a robust monitoring program to anticipate how that activism may impact their operations and interests.
Trends in Energy is your weekly look at key trends affecting the energy industry, brought to you by the competitive intelligence experts at Delve. As the political and regulatory landscape continues to shift, reach out to learn how our insights can help you navigate these challenges.