Since Oct. 25, 1896, the New York Times has had a tagline that reads: “all the news that’s fit to print.” This motto has served that publication well for nearly a 120 years and we will also do our best to bring you all the news about LNG policy developments that’s fit to print. (And there’s quite a bit to print this week!)
Energy & Commerce Committee Releases LNG Report
The biggest news this week was the Feb. 4 release of a House Energy and Commerce Committee policy paper, entitled: Prosperity at Home and Strengthened Allies Abroad—A Global Perspective on Natural Gas Exports. The paper, authored by the committee’s majority (Republican) staff, built upon hearings and an International Forum held last year. A key finding of the paper:
“Our friends and allies around the globe desperately need a more stable, reliable, and affordable supply of natural gas, and American consumers and manufacturers need continued robust demand to bring additional resources into competitive production.
“The U.S. has the opportunity to be the world’s preferred supplier, and the case for mutually beneficial trade is very strong… [But] this window of opportunity will not remain open indefinitely, therefore the committee is urging the Department of Energy to approve all remaining export licenses by the end of the year and is considering legislative action to modernize the process and remove barriers.”
Musical Chairs in the Senate
On Feb. 6, the U.S. Senate confirmed one of its own, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus from Montana, to be the new U.S. ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. Baucus, who had served almost six terms (35 years) in the Senate, had decided previously not run for a seventh term.
Baucus’ departure means that Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden will chair the Senate Finance Committee, the panel with jurisdiction over tax and trade issues. It also brings a near-certain death knell to efforts to rewrite (at least in 2014) the U.S. tax code, which was last overhauled in 1986.
Wyden, who has chaired the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the past 14 months, has signaled (but not stated explicitly) that he has no plans to move the trade promotion authority (fast track) bill that Baucus had negotiated with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the top Republican on Finance, and House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI.).
This will not stop the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, the next round of which is scheduled for Brussels during the week of March 10. However, without enactment of explicit trade promotion authority, any TTIP agreement could be “picked apart” or delayed indefinitely in the Senate, which under the U.S. Constitution must ratify any such international agreement.
Wyden’s elevation to Finance Committee chair means that he must relinquish the Energy Committee gavel. Next in line, strictly by seniority, is Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), but Johnson suffered a stroke several years ago and is not standing for reelection in November. Immediately behind Johnson is Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is running for reelection to what would be her fourth Senate term.
Louisiana has become a difficult state for Democrats, and Landrieu is literally in the “race of her life.” Therefore, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) made sure that Landrieu would get the Energy Panel gavel, which will happen next week.
In preparation for that move, Landrieu sat down on Feb. 6 with, Coral Davenport, of The New York Times, to discuss energy issues. (Click Here, subscription required.) The article quotes Landrieu saying: “I’m proud to be from a state with a 100-year-plus tradition of the energy industry… [And I’m] very favorably inclined to opening up our [export]markets so there will be incentives to find oil and gas.”
“Our Energy Moment” Launched Officially at DC Event
Although it has had a website for several months, Our Energy Moment had a coming out party on Feb. 6 at the Hyatt hotel on Capitol Hill. Our Energy Moment is a grassroots organization formed to “highlight the benefits of expanded markets for U.S. liquefied natural gas.” Cheniere Energy and Sempra Energy are the most prominent backers, but the group has already garnered support from other companies and associations in the Gulf Coast.
Held in conjunction with Politico, the launch event featured four U.S. representatives and two senators with a number of other experts to discuss “Energy and the 113th Congress.” Several hundred people attended the morning meeting and although not much new was revealed during the panel discussions, there was a clear consensus that America’s shale revolution has indeed made this “our energy moment.”