When environmentalists look back on 2022, they might remember it as the year the United States finally passed a major climate change law. Some advocates worry, however, that this significant victory is being undermined by a long-term trend that accelerated while that law—the Inflation Reduction Act—was being negotiated.
In the first half of the year, the United States became the world’s top exporter of liquified natural gas, or LNG. Then, in September, crude oil exports hit an all-time high when the country sent abroad about 4 million barrels per day.
The sharp rise in crude oil and natural gas exports has been supported by a bipartisan consensus that has spanned three consecutive presidential administrations, each of which has viewed energy exports as a lever of foreign policy. More than anything, though, it is the culmination of a sustained campaign by the oil industry that has seen production soar even as domestic demand for its fuels threatens to decline.
“This is all about industry staking a claim to a future role,” said Josh Axelrod, senior advocate in the nature program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Domestic gasoline consumption has plateaued or even begun to decline, he pointed out, and natural gas use is expected to do the same soon. “There’s no growth opportunity for oil in the U.S. market,” Axelrod said, “so securing export destinations and capacity is one of their many tactics to stay active and growing even as climate change gets worse.” [Continue reading…]