Let’s be honest: The future of the U.S. economy is bleak. A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that the U.S. economy will grow only two percent this year— a downward revision of the already anemic 2.4 percent growth predicted late last year.
Fortunately, some Washington lawmakers are trying to turn this dreary forecast around. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is working to pass an energy bill that would allow the country to export more natural gas. That would create thousands of jobs and generate billions in economic growth, while improving U.S. leverage in international energy markets.
The United States is enjoying a historic energy boom. Domestic natural gas production has increased 42 percent since 2005 and is on pace to jump another 39 percent by 2040. According to one report by the U.S. Energy Information Association, the country has enough sources of natural gas to meet the country’s needs for at least the next 80 years.
With this ample supply, many companies have turned their attention to the export market. But before companies can begin new liquefied natural gas projects (gas is transported in liquid form), they must submit an application to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Right now, though, the Energy Department isn’t required to decide on liquefied natural gas applications in any specified timeframe. Today, about 30 applications still awaiting approval. The Department has been slow walking some requests since 2012. That’s downright ridiculous.
Consider an application for one export facility in Texas that has been pending for 49 months. If accepted, the project would support nearly 45,000 new jobs and produce exports valued at up to $45 million every single day.
A project in Georgia could create over 1,000 jobs and support exports valued at nearly $8 million per day. And one in Louisiana could employ 1,000 Americans and bring in $17 million daily.
Overall, easing restrictions on natural gas exports could create nearly half a million jobs and add $73.6 billion to U.S. GDP over the next 20 years.
Exporting LNG would also help ease geopolitical tensions. Take Russia, a big natural gas exporter, which has repeatedly shown its willingness to threaten supply disruptions to obtain political concessions from dependent neighbors. If the United States could sell more natural gas to European countries, we could limit Russia’s grip on our allies in the area.
Without knowing that LNG permit applications will be considered in a timely manner, companies won’t invest in the jobs and facilities required to liquefy and export the gas. And other countries won’t consider America reliable sellers. Simply stated, they’ll look for their gas elsewhere.
Thankfully, for the first time in nine years, the Senate is serious about passing legislation that would expedite the process for LNG exports. It would require the Energy Department to make a final call on project applications within 45 days of the completion of an environmental review— a reasonable standard by any measure.
Now, Congress must get it passed. This legislation would open up thousands of jobs and billions in economic growth while improving international security. Congress must move forward on sensible energy policy right away in order to ensure a brighter economic future for the United States.
Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to limited, responsible government.