Responding to questions from reporters during a joint press conference with Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump echoed his “And-Mexico’s-Gonna-Pay-for-It” routine by announcing plans to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals across the continent for the expressed purpose of importing fracked gas from the United States.
“We are already talking to the European Union about building anywhere from nine to 11 ports—which they will pay for—so that we can ship our LNG over to various parts of Europe,” Trump stated. “And that will be more competition.”
In response to a question about a gas pipeline from Russia, Trump said, “I’d like to see a competing pipeline” to that. Turning to Conte, Trump added, “So Mr. Prime Minister, I hope we’re going to be able to do that competing pipeline.”
The comments come on the heels of Trump boasting last week that the EU would “be buying vast amounts of LNG!” after he reached an agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Critics, however, quickly denounced the president’s latest comments for both environmental and economic reasons.
“The Trump administration continues to not only ignore climate change, the greatest economic and security threat the world faces, when imagining that the world needs all this LNG, but also ignores economic reality,” Lorne Stockman, senior research analyst at Oil Change International, explained to Common Dreams in an email.
Despite the president’s claims about what the EU will do, there’s little evidence to support the idea that Europe is on the verge of a giant LNG import binge. As Reuters noted, “three-quarters of Europe’s existing import facilities lie empty while demand for U.S. LNG on the continent remains limited.” According to an analysis by Food & Water Watch Europe released earlier this year, the utilization rate of Europe’s existing LNG import terminals shows there is no need for new facilities.
“If we don’t want to lock Europe into even more fossil fuels and move to a renewable energy system, we cannot waste money on LNG infrastructure but have to channel as much financial and political support as possible to renewables,” wrote Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger, the authors of the group’s analysis, in April.
As Stockman added, “Europe’s existing LNG import terminals are being utilized at very low levels. The need for more is like most of Trump’s trade policy—illusory.”
Politico, meanwhile, called it “the art of the no-deal,” as the “U.S. is already exporting LNG to Europe. Market forces will largely determine whether its share will go up in the future.”
Trump’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, for his part, has been on an LNG promotion circuit. Last week he appeared at the dedication of the controversial Cove Point LNG export expansion project, where he said, “We’re now exporting natural gas to 30 nations.”
Touting fracked gas, he asserted in a CNBC op-ed over the weekend that “we must continue to expand our extraction capabilities and domestic transmission infrastructure.” The Energy Department also announced last week a final rule to expedite approval for small-scale natural gas exports, including LNG, to non-free trade agreement countries.
In addition, as DeSmogBlog reported:
the DOE is currently considering 25 projects that combined would raise exports to a staggering 21.35 Bcf [billion cubic feet] per day.
That volume is so high that the DOE found it necessary to produce a study assessing the impacts of greenlighting those export projects could be on both America’s gas markets and the nation’s overall economy.
Environment groups including Food & Water Watch, Oil Change International, and Friends of the Earth-U.S., took issue with the report, calling it fundamentally flawed because the “findings exaggerate both the likelihood of elevated levels of U.S. LNG exports and, consequently, the projected macroeconomic benefits from LNG exports.”
In particular, the groups say the study failed to take into consideration climate polices nations would take to work towards Paris climate agreement goals, which would likely entail a reduction in global gas demand.
“While a number of states and most countries are smartly turning away from filthy, antiquated fossil fuels, the Trump administration is senselessly pushing ahead with climate-killing LNG exports. The world will increasingly reject our gas exports in favor of truly clean, renewable power, and as a result the costs of this policy to Americans will skyrocket,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.
“Trump makes up his own science,” she added, “and our country and the world suffers.”
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