China is turning to natural gas power to fight urban smog but only produces about half as much natural gas as it needs, Reuters reports. As a result, China is importing vast amounts of natural gas and will need to import even more in the near future. With imports necessary to meet nearly half its natural gas demand, China’s energy needs present a golden opportunity for U.S. energy companies and U.S. policymakers.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics reports China produced 147 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas last year. Natural gas demand, however, is expected to be 270 bcf this year. Future years will likely see even more natural gas demand.
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Although China has large shale gas reserves, recovery efforts are “costly and are hamstrung by mountainous geology, water scarcity and high land costs,” Reuters reports.
By contrast, American energy producers can inexpensively recover natural gas from shale rock formations via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). As a result, U.S. producers sell natural gas at roughly half the cost of the world’s leading exporter, Russia.
The favorable economics of U.S. natural gas production, however, are being squandered by the environmental left seeking to obstruct natural gas production. Moreover, federal, state, and local policymakers have blocked proposals to construct natural gas export facilities necessary to export natural gas. As a result, there is only one operational natural gas export facility in the United States. Located at Sabine Pass, Louisiana, natural gas transport to China requires a long voyage south to the tropics, then through the Panama Canal, then north and west to China. Natural gas export facilities on the U.S. West Coast would loosen the bottleneck at Sabine Pass and reduce the time and costs of export to China and the rest of Asia.
Selling natural gas to China would boost the American economy, level our trade imbalance with China, and give us another bargaining chip in international relations. It is time for American policymakers to loosen restrictions on American natural gas exports.