Emissions from new natural gas projects in the United States will be equivalent to 18 million cars

An LNG processing plant is seen in Cameron, Louisiana.

An LNG processing plant is seen in Cameron, Louisiana.
Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP (PA)

Despite promises from the Biden administration to tackle climate change, the United States is now embarking on a major effort to build fossil fuel infrastructure after the war in Ukraine, with potentially disastrous climate results.

A report released last week by the Environmental Integrity Project reveals that 25 liquefied natural gas projects under development (LNG) terminals in the United States have the potential to release as many greenhouse gases every year as 18 million gas-powered cars, roughly the equivalent of all the cars in Florida.

“While there is pressure to expedite approvals for these LNG projects, government regulators must be careful and thoughtful in considering their significant environmental impacts,” said Alexandra Shaykevich, rsearchdirector of the environmental integrity project, said in a statement. “A dramatic increase in global dependence on LNG could be risky, from a climate perspective.”

LNG is the common term for liquefied natural gas, a form of natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid stategiving it volume around 600 times smaller than natural gas that goes through a pipeline. The liquid composition of LNG allows it to be transported to places inaccessible to pipelines, including, above all, to be shipped abroad.

Prior to 2015, the United States exported almost no LNG. But during the fracking boom of the past decade, the United States has become one of the world’s leading exporters, reaching export record last year as Europe’s natural gas supply ran out. The war in Ukraine has dramatically increased the demand for US LNG, which has huge increases in exports during the first half of this year. Since the Russian invasion in late February, at least 19 major LNG agreements were signed by US suppliers, while three major LNG projects were approved or advanced in construction. By the end of 2022, the The Energy Information Administration predictsthe United States will have the largest LNG export capacity of any country in the world.

But all of these facilities – and the new ones that are sure to emerge as the boom continues – have serious ramifications for the climate. In this report, the Environmental Integrity Project analyzed 25 new, proposed, and expansion of LNG projects, based on public records hosted at Oil and Gas Watch website. This number includes four export terminals under construction in Texas and Louisiana; six new terminals and three extensions that have the required permits but have not started construction in Louisiana, Texas and Florida; and 10 new terminals and two extensions awaiting required approvals in Alaska, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

According to figures included in permits and proposed permits for these facilities, all together they have the potential to release over 90 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.are per year. This number includes 27.3 million tonnes from facilities currently under construction, 25.6 million tonnes from facilities that have obtained permits but have not started construction and 37.7 million tonnes from facilities in waiting for approval.

This figure of 90 million is also falsely weak: TThe greenhouse gas emissions included in the permits for these terminals and expansions come only from the operation of the plants, not from the production or use of the gas. There are currently only seven terminals that export all LNG to the United States, and these are not included in the analysis; together, these facilities are allowed to emit 28.3 million tonnes of greenhouse gasesits operation each year. (Six of those facilities, according to the report, are currently operating at maximum capacity since the start of the war.)

Despite these serious risks, the Biden administration pledged in March to supply an additional 15 million cubic meters of LNG to Europe by the end of the year – a sizeable order, given that the United States has shipped 22 million cubic meters last year. In the United States, the administration has saidaims to send 50 million cubic meters to Europe by 2030. (President claims in his announcement of the plan that industry expansion “will occur in a way that is consistent with, and not in conflict with, the net zero climate goal we are aiming for”.)

Paradoxically, energy experts pointed out that a massive build-up of LNG infrastructure won’t actually help solve the near-term energy crisis facing the world – despite sustained messaging from the fossil fuel industry that only they can fix it things. Many facilities that have been lit or proposed since the start of the war will not be truly operational until later in the decade. The moment they go online and start exporting gas, Europe, which has been has been working hard since the start of the war to reduce its consumption of natural gas and increase energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies, may not be so eager customer.

Meanwhile, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that all fossil fuel infrastructure in place today enough to push us to dangerous levels of warmingand to avoid the worst climate change, the world must immediately stop building any type of fossil fuel infrastructure. But with plans like the US for LNG, that goal seems even more out of reach.

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