Globalizing our gas

In his state of the state address Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper once again emphasized the importance of developing Colorado’s energy resources responsibly, both to boost the economy in much of the state and to improve the environment.

Good for Hick. His continuing support for the oil and gas industry is welcome. But the governor should also turn his eyes beyond U.S. shores to boost the country’s natural gas industry. And he should use whatever influence he has with his fellow Democrat in the White House to develop regulations and infrastructure to encourage exports of liquified natural gas, or LNG.

As two global energy experts noted in an op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal Thursday, the United States is poised to become a major global provider of LNG over the next few years. If that occurs, it will undoubtedly help stabilize natural gas prices in this country and thereby help the economy of Colorado and the Western Slope.

But even more important are the foreign policy implications, wrote Robert Johnston and Leslie Palti-Guzman. Allowing up to 8 percent of current U.S. natural gas production to be exported as LNG by 2020 would present significant competition to an existing global gas cartel that includes Iran, Venezuela, Russia and several Arab states. It would aid U.S. allies from Japan to Europe by making them less susceptible to the political demands of the cartel or to energy blockades. And it would give the United States more clout in global energy discussions.

Unmentioned in this op-ed piece is the climate-change advantage of natural gas. But Hickenlooper made note of it Thursday, offering some astounding facts.

While acknowledging there are environmental issues associated with extracting natural gas, he added, “There are also undeniable environmental benefits.

“The U.S. is halfway to achieving the reduction in carbon emissions that was contemplated by the Kyoto Protocol, due largely to the use of inexpensive natural gas.” he said. “The per-capita carbon emissions in this country are at the same level as when President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned over the White House to John Kennedy more than 50 years ago.”

Exporting a small portion of our natural gas can help other countries reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, as well.

Hickenlooper has a solid record of working to boost compressed natural gas as a fuel for vehicles in this country. And Thursday he took aim at an issue that is dear to some members of his own party: local government regulation of oil and gas drilling that conflicts with state oversight of the industry.

Speaking of the need for the state to cooperate with local governments on energy rules that make sense for their communities, the governor added, “What doesn’t work is a patchwork of rules and regulations.”

Kudos to Hickenlooper for doing that. We hope he’ll also find ways to work with the Obama administration and other governors to ensure that liquified natural gas becomes an important United States export in the next few years.


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