Deputy Energy Secretary Defends LNG Pause, Offers Little Transparency or Timeline

Department of Energy Deputy Secretary David Turk defended his administration’s LNG pause while repeatedly dancing his way around questions on when it would end at Wednesday’s House Science, Space, and Technology hearing on the DOE Fiscal Year 2025 budget proposal.

In response to questions on the timeline, Dep. Sec. Turk repeatedly answered:

“What we are doing here is saying, let’s take a step back, and look at what’s in the national interest.”

However, based on past testimony from experts and outrage from allies, Dep. Sec. Turk’s vague responses bring up a simple question to answer: Is a stronger domestic energy industry, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the creation of hundreds of new jobs not in the national interest?

There seems to be some confusion in the administration over the answer to those questions. Just a day after the hearing, Senior Climate Adviser to the White House John Podesta praised the oil and gas industry, including its achievement as the world’s largest exporter of natural gas:

The US is now the number one producer of oil and gas in the world, the number one exporter of natural gas, and that’s a good thing, because following the illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the need that Europe had to rely on different sources rather than Russia fossils, it was important that the US could step up and supply a good deal of the need.” (emphasis added)

Adding to these mixed messages and uncertainty, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently gave the green light to Venture Global LNG for its proposed CP2 LNG project in Louisiana, even amidst the DOE’s indefinite pause.

Lack of Details on LNG Pause

In addition to the timeline, questions focused on the clarity of why the decision was made and operational questions about who was leading the LNG study. California Rep. Vince Fong (R-CA) spoke directly to the lack of transparency, asking:

“The question that has been hard to answer, is who is in charge? Can you shed some light on which individuals are at the helm of this analysis and giving direction to the labs. Who has daily oversight of its progress?”

While Dep. Secretary Turk initially answered, “ultimately Secretary Granholm and I are in charge,” he later clarified when pressed that it was not him, in fact, who was in charge of the study to determine whether or not LNG exports were in U.S. national interest:

“I get updated routinely on this, but we rely on our civil servants and our experts in the Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Office, working with others in our department to do the analysis. What we’ve said is let’s have a comprehensive, very rigorous progress… then we leave it up to them in terms of the particular details, the number of scenarios, the particular work that goes into it.”

He later clarified:

“So, Brad Crabtree is our Assistant Secretary for the Fossil Energy and Carbon Management Office. Amy Sweeney is one of our career folks who’s been very heavily involved.”

Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) – whose state is the fifth-largest energy-consuming state in the nation – chose to use his time to push the DOE to be even more aggressive in their evaluation of LNG exports and their impact on the environment.

“President Biden has appropriately said this is the decisive decade for climate, and 100-year global warming potential is interesting but a rather academic question when we have a very narrow period of time to right the ship. I would hope you would take a more aggressive view as you’re looking at those issues.”

However, LNG and the use of natural gas have proven to be an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions. In fact, natural gas is responsible for the majority of power sector emissions reductions since 2005.

This was a point Dep. Sec. Turk acknowledged, saying:

We’ve actually reduced our emissions in 2023, over 4 percent, at the same time as we had one of the most robust GDP growths all around the world, so we are decoupling.”

In addition to the LNG pause, questions centered around the increased energy demand Artificial Intelligence and other advanced manufacturing necessitates, even as the administration looks to phase out baseload energy resources, and how this impacts prices.  Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY), whose constituents in Central New York recently learned they would have a major rate increase to their electricity bills, tried to get some transparency as to how the DOE envisions powering the country without natural gas or fossil fuels:

“The proposal would add approximately 440 dollars a year to the bill for a typical Central New York household that is using both electricity and gas. This increase in rates demonstrates the pressing need for America to reassess its energy investment strategy. Can you explain the cause of these rising energy prices for my constituents please?”

Dep. Secretary Turk argued that prices were, in fact, going down and blamed geopolitical factors, rather than keep-it-in-the-ground policies

We did have an increase because of Covid and when Russia invaded Ukraine…”

However, Rep. Williams called out the “political” speak in his answers that don’t help everyday Americans.

“My constituents want answers to these questions, they don’t want talking points.  You didn’t answer the question of why energy costs have risen. You’ve said now they’ve risen because of COVID, an answer you didn’t provide earlier, and then you’ve said that prices are going to drop right after these historic increases! I don’t hear real answers, I only hear political answers, and that’s frustrating.”

Bottom Line: Following the hearing, the only thing that is clear is that the administration continues to give vague answers about its energy policies that will have real impacts on Americans and to send mixed signals about the role natural gas should play in our energy future.

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