Friday, June 03, 2022


 Greenhouse gases are raising global temperatures and fueling extreme weather, from wildfires to violent storms.

The use of wind, solar and other renewable energy has grown as prices of solar components and wind turbines have plunged. But so has the world’s thirst for natural gas. In February, the U.S. exported 317 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas — six times times the amount five years earlier. Investment in LNG terminals catapulted from nothing in 2011, before the U.S. export industry existed, to $63 billion over the next decade, according to Rystad Energy. The firm projects that investment could swell an additional $100 billion over the next two decades.

Developers plan to build a series of liquefied natural gas export facilities across Southwest Louisiana, already the heart of the industry. Even in a state with a heavy industrial base, these facilities are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Louisiana.

“They’re an absolute powerhouse for greenhouse gas emissions,” said Naomi Yoder, a staff scientist at Healthy Gulf, a nonprofit that advocates for clean energy. That’s because these export facilities tend to burn off, or flare, natural gas.

A bright orb on the horizon looks like the rising sun. It’s not. It’s a flare from Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass LNG, the latest export terminal to open. The flare, a mixture of flames and smoke that pours out when the facility burns natural gas, had been burning non-stop for a week

Together, the four LNG export terminals on the Gulf Coast emitted nearly 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2020 — comparable to all of Costa Rica

Biden announced his intention to fight climate change by eliminating fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2035 and by sharply reducing emissions from the rest of the economy. Yet since Biden became president, the U.S. has become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas as demand for the fuel, known as LNG, has escalated. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine suddenly intensified the push. It heightened demand for natural gas, especially for countries in Europe that relied on Russian energy but now need to cut those ties. Seizing the opportunity, the natural gas industry promoted U.S.-produced LNG as a way to fill the gaps, and prices for the fuel have skyrocketed. American terminals are now exporting gas at full capacity, which is why the expansion of the terminals has accelerated.

“The U.S. is exporting every molecule of liquefied natural gas that we can to alleviate supply issues in Europe,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in March, urging the oil and gas industry to ramp up production. Asked whether boosting fossil fuel exports contradicts Biden’s climate goals, Granholm told The Associated Press “we have got to do both.”

“We’re delivering a cleaner, more environmentally friendly fuel,” said Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for LNG, the industry’s lobbying group. “The U.S. can use that to help defuse some of the geopolitical issues around the world by delivering a reliable fuel source.”

“I feel Southwest Louisiana has been made a sacrificial lamb,” said Roishetta Ozane, an organizer for Healthy Gulf. An outspoken critic of the expansion of LNG facilities, Ozane warns her neighbors that the emissions worsen global warming and violent storms and impair their community’s air quality.

Of the eight terminals now exporting LNG, five lie on the coast of Louisiana and Texas. At least 16 more plus four expansions are proposed or under construction, nearly all along that same stretch of Gulf coastline. The projects are backed by Exxon Mobil, Qatar Energy, Total Energies and numerous other global energy giants. Financing for several proposed plants comes from BlackRock, Vanguard and Mitsubishi. Louisiana offers a property tax break of up to 10 years to companies that build LNG terminals. Ozane, argue that the tax breaks give away too much.

“We have a big homelessness problem,” Ozane said. “Our schools look horrible. If LNG is doing so much for the state, why is it like that?”

Methane — the powerful greenhouse gas that’s the primary ingredient of natural gas — can escape. And it does, from leaky wells, pipelines, compressors and storage tanks. In the Permian Basin, one of the world’s richest oil and gas fields, well heads and pipelines are leaking far more methane than previously thought, according to a study that concluded that 9% of the gas produced in New Mexico’s side of the basin is leaking.

“That’s a shocking leakage estimate,” Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University and chairman of the Global Carbon Project, an international research group, said about natural gas. At that rate, he said, the leaking methane alone is warming the climate more than the carbon dioxide that would be released if all the produced natural gas were burned. Natural gas proponents say it’s better for the climate than burning coal, because it releases fewer emissions when burned. But gas isn’t substituting for coal in most places, Jackson noted. Instead, as energy demand grows globally, natural gas is being used in addition to coal and other sources.

“In building more LNG export terminals,” Jackson said, “we’re locking in emissions for decades to come.”

As natural gas expands in Gulf, residents fear rising damage | AP News

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