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Washington, D.C., Updates for February 2024

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Biden Administration orders a pause on new gas export permits!

On 26 January 2024, the Biden administration announced a freeze on new export permits for natural gas while it studies their impact on climate change despite those exports’ role in bolstering the U.S. economy and Washington’s influence in Europe. U.S. shipments helped Europe reduce its dependence on Russian supplies in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The natural gas boom has turned the U.S. into the world’s largest exporter of the fuel. As reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. gas export capacity has more than tripled since 2018, to 12 billion cubic feet a day, and is projected to nearly double again by 2030.

The freeze announcement is the most sweeping step yet by President Biden to clamp down on the fossil fuel industry. It also shows the resurgence of environmental groups’ influence on the White House as Biden ramps up his political campaign ahead of November’s election.

The action comes a month after the U.N. climate summit in Dubai, where the U.S. joined nearly 200 other nations in pledging a “transition” away from fossil fuels. Biden said in a statement that he remained committed to fighting climate change, which he called “the existential threat of our time.”

The review would put a hold on approvals for about 10 projects that have applied for permits but not yet received them, and whose backers have not made final investment decisions whether to build them. Exports themselves are still expected to soar in the coming years because of projects already approved and under construction.

The Energy Department’s National Labs will conduct the review, after which the administration will release the analysis for public comment. The process could take up to 15 months to finish.

Natural gas supporters have said that the freeze will shock the global energy market, having the impact of an economic sanction, and send a devastating signal to our allies that they can no longer rely on the United States.