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Congress can pave way for more LNG exports

| Tuesday, June 24, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

In a dramatic shift from just five years ago, the United States has the opportunity to become a major force in the international energy market. We have quickly shifted from energy scarcity and weaker footing in the global marketplace to abundance and leverage. By exporting even a small portion of our plentiful natural gas resources overseas to our allies, Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale could help change global energy markets and strengthen the commonwealth's economy and our national security.

The U.S. House is scheduled to soon consider H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act. This bipartisan bill would streamline the permitting process for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports.

Allowing the sale of our natural gas abroad will bring money back to the U.S. and create jobs, while also providing significant tax revenues to our local, state and federal governments. Each LNG export terminal is a multibillion-dollar investment that creates construction jobs in addition to the more permanent positions within the natural gas value chain. That means jobs for steel workers, turbine manufacturers, pipe fitters and others. Furthermore, a global market for Marcellus natural gas means more investment and more jobs for the oil and gas industry, which already supports nearly 240,000 jobs in Pennsylvania.

In February, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that our national trade deficit for 2013 improved by $63.1 billion in comparison to 2012. However, figures for the month of April are now showing that imports are increasing, exports are decreasing and the trade deficit is now at a two-year high. It makes perfect sense to allow additional LNG exports in order to reduce the trade deficit.

In addition to its economic benefits, natural gas significantly contributes to the goal of lower carbon emissions, which decreased by 3.8 percent last year — down to 1994 levels. Increased natural gas use across the country is largely responsible for this reduction in emissions. In fact, the International Energy Agency notes that increased natural gas use could reduce global carbon emissions by 740 million metric tons by 2035.

As the crisis in Ukraine continues to unfold, we are reminded that LNG can also provide significant geopolitical benefits. There are European LNG import facilities under construction in Lithuania, Poland, Belgium, Spain and Italy, with additional facilities planned in Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, France, Croatia, the U.K. and elsewhere. By expediting the approval of LNG exports, the U.S. will send a clear signal to the world that America intends to move forward as a reliable energy provider.

Furthermore, most economists agree that a modest expansion of LNG exports would serve to stabilize domestic prices and supply, which is critical to sustaining the economic expansion witnessed from shale gas development in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

The Domestic Prosperity and Global Freedom Act will allow LNG projects to move forward, providing tens of billions of dollars in capital investment and creating thousands of jobs here in the U.S., while also contributing a reliable supply of natural gas to the global marketplace. Congress has a duty to the American people to ensure this unique opportunity is not squandered and must pass this legislation to ensure America can remain innovative and competitive.

Glenn Thompson is a Republican congressman representing Pennsylvania's 5th District and co-chair of the House Natural Gas Caucus.

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