Big Oil claims Biden’s LNG pause harms national security — don’t believe the hype 

On Jan. 26, the Biden administration made what might be the most important decision on climate policy in history. Rather than rubber-stamping permits for new liquified natural gas export terminals — “LNGs,” in industry parlance — regulators will now pause to consider the impacts of such massive new plants on energy costs, America’s energy security and our climate. 

It’s a moderate move that gives the federal government time to compare the purported benefits of gas exports against the evidence of their greenhouse gas emissions. And it does nothing to stop the short-term surge, with U.S. exports expected to rise by 80 percent by the end of 2028. 

According to the industry, however, the pause is a radical decision that harms U.S. national security and the security of our allies in Europe. They want business as usual, and that means expanding the annual subsidies for fossil fuels they receive at taxpayer expense beyond the current $7 trillion per year, according to an International Monetary Fund study. 

As a retired United States Army commander and a Ukrainian leader fighting against Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we know the facts about American and European security. And we’re sickened by the industry’s naked attempts to use fear and human suffering to control U.S. policy and line their pockets. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his war of conquest against the Ukrainian people in February 2022. The industry was ready with its talking points, calling for more exports of American liquefied gas and for the fast-tracking of an already lenient permitting process for new facilities. They knew that war would create an opportunity for sales, and they weren’t prepared to let this crisis go to waste. 

In the following years, however, Europe has mostly carried on without Russian exports or any new gas export terminals being constructed in the United States. True, more of the gas set to be exported from the United States was sold to Europe rather than Asia or elsewhere. But that was just a rerouting of ships leaving from the same American ports. Gas export terminals, each bigger than a football stadium, take three to five years to build, and many of these projects would not even be online until the 2030s. 

Meantime, Europe has been able to reduce  its dependency on Russian gas imports from 45 percent of total imports in 2021 to 15 percent in 2023. Between an increased use of renewable energy, winterization of buildings and other efficiencies, Europe has kept the lights on and the heat running with current expanded American exports — and without bending the knee to Putin. Currently, Europe’s energy supply is strong, and the situation is improving, with the European Commission predicting no negative impacts on energy security.  

Still, U.S.-based fossil fuel companies keep churning out the narrative that Europe needs more American gas. If they had their way, and the federal government were to approve all of the new projects they have proposed, U.S. gas export capacity would exceed Europe’s energy demands by 76 percent by 2030.  

Not only would this glut of gas be useless, but the climate impact would be almost unimaginable, and would cost up to $178 trillion by 2070. According to recent estimates, the industry’s proposed buildout of gas export terminals on the Gulf Coast would cause greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of the entire European Union. That’s not just the EU’s energy sector — it’s every business, family, city, house and car across 27 countries combined.  

Even as Europe’s demand for gas falls, industry insiders continue to wrongly claim that exporting gas is essential to America’s national security. The trouble is that the industry has nothing to back up their claims. Gas is a finite, nonrenewable resource. How would the U.S. gain any military, economic or other geopolitical advantage by selling off more of this energy, especially if our allies don’t need any more of it? 

The European Union and the United States have sanctions in place to stem the flow of money from oil and gas sales into Russia. These have made it effectively impossible for Russia to finance new gas export terminals. What the U.S., EU and the international community must do is redouble these efforts to stop the sale of Russian oil and gas outright.   

The industry has no interest in European, Ukrainian or American security, and we have no reason to trust them to offer viable solutions. Moving away from fossil fuels is the only way we’ll starve Putin’s war machine, achieve peace and preserve the future of our climate.  

Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (Ret.) is a former U.S. Army commander. He is head of The Green Army, an organization dedicated to finding solutions to pollution.  

Svitlana Romanko, Ph.D., is an international environmental attorney and founder of Razom We Stand, an independent Ukrainian movement dedicated to the permanent defeat of Russian fossil fueled aggression, and a clean energy future for Ukraine and the world. 

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