Natural gas exports would boost economy, report says

Clifford Krauss / New York Times News Service /

HOUSTON — In a victory for the oil and gas industry, an Energy Department study released Wednesday concluded that the national economic benefits of significant natural gas exports far outweighed the potential for higher consumer energy prices.

The Obama administration has been cautious to embrace large exports of gas out of concern that consumers who rely on gas for heating and cooking could see their utility prices rise. Higher exports could raise costs to manufacturers that now benefit from a glut of cheap gas, some economists warn, although massive terminal projects would generate thousands of construction jobs and gas could be a lucrative export earner.

The new report, prepared by NERA Economic Consulting for the government, concluded that domestic gas prices would not rise sharply as a result of exports and that expanded export revenue would generally help most Americans.

Noting that gas exports could produce up to $47 billion in new economic activity in 2020, a time by which many new terminals would be up and running, the report said, “Welfare improvement is highest under the high export volume scenarios because U.S. consumers benefit from an increase in wealth transfer and export revenues.”

Oil and gas companies are anxious for exports to boost the lagging price of natural gas, and the report is likely to spur a competitive lobbying campaign for regulatory approval of export terminals. Executives in the oil and gas industry were enthusiastic about the report.