Biden’s LNG pause earns another no-confidence vote from American energy industry

To declare that “the future is now” might seem like an oxymoron, yet our leaders should internalize the concept when making energy policy. The phrase rings especially true as lawmakers look to counter the Biden administration’s indefinite pause on export permits for liquefied natural gas.

Amid continued conflicts around the globe, the Biden administration’s LNG export pause is the latest blow to industry and investor confidence. The administration promised that the move “will not impact our ability to continue supplying LNG to our allies in the near term.” This limited reassurance, however, demonstrates a profound disconnect between this administration’s climate activism and the domestic energy industry that powers our economic and national security.

American businesses looking to make the long-term investments necessary for our nation’s energy future — and allies looking for certainty — do not need halfhearted, near-term promises of reprieve from the Biden administration’s war on domestic energy production. Instead, they need predictable confidence in the future of American energy security.

The time for our leaders to provide that confidence is now.

Unfortunately, this administration continues to design policies to collect accolades from climate activists on TikTok. Then, as public opposition mounts, White House officials often counter that the negative policy impact is limited to future projects. All anti-energy actions have consequences today, however, undermining confidence and chipping away at American energy. It won’t be long before we realize that the bill has already come due for Americans and our allies around the world.

The circumstances of the LNG export pause offer an instructive example of this destructive pattern.

As part of a focused commitment to U.S. energy security, preventing the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project was a critical priority during the Trump administration. The priority enjoyed bipartisan support, as the project was set to strengthen Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas and weaken energy security in the region. When I served as ambassador to Denmark, my team and I worked tirelessly and successfully to halt its completion.

Unfortunately, President Biden reversed course. After canceling the Keystone XL pipeline here at home, the administration removed sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attributed this to the desire for “a predictable, stable relationship with Russia.” Predictably, however, the war on domestic energy and the weakness projected abroad only emboldened Russia’s aggression. In February 2022, with the price of oil nearing $100 a barrel, Russia invaded Ukraine.

Fortunately, American energy producers stepped in to help our European allies whose own myopic focus on so-called green energy had fueled their dependence on Russian energy and left them vulnerable. As Toby Rice, CEO of the natural gas producer EQT, said in recent congressional testimony, the U.S. natural gas industry “literally kept the lights on in Europe.” Ramping up U.S. LNG exports strengthened energy security in the region and helped our allies wean themselves off Russian gas.

While the Biden administration looked to supply LNG to our allies after the invasion, it also continued to signal its overriding commitment to the war on traditional energy. Climate envoy John Kerry “put the industry on notice,” declaring that the time frame for natural gas must be limited and warning producers that “you’ve got six years, eight years, no more than 10 years or so.” He further warned that “no one should make it easy for the gas interests to be building out 30- or 40-year infrastructure.”

These warnings are remarkably disconnected from reality. The U.S. was able to lend support only due to long-term investment in infrastructure. Further, U.S. ability to ramp up exports was largely reliant on export permits approved by the Trump administration. In contrast, the Biden administration was already slow-walking more permits, putting the U.S. and our allies on shakier footing for the future. Under Mr. Biden, the average time to receive an export license was 330 days, and only capacity expansions were approved. In contrast, the average under former President Donald Trump was just 49 days.

Now, the Biden administration’s indefinite pause is set to freeze several pending projects and affect over a dozen that have been approved by past administrations. This policy change stifles economic development at home, leaves key partners in the lurch, and encourages nations around the world to turn elsewhere, including Russia and Iran, instead of the United States. Ironically, this will both weaken U.S. influence and increase the very emissions that climate activists hope to reduce.

Perhaps most importantly, this arbitrary manipulation of bureaucratic barriers undermines the confidence that drives energy growth and innovation. The Biden administration justifies radical climate policies by citing a need to “protect the future for generations to come.”

But the Biden administration’s war on hydrocarbons is remarkably shortsighted. Despite promises of near-term stability, our future is now. Generations to come depend on U.S. leadership dedicated both in policy and principle to our secure energy future — starting today.