I am into my fifth decade studying the ebb and flow of American leadership on the global stage — long enough to identify common themes and strategies for continued success.
The World Gas Conference in Washington last week confirmed, yet again, that our domestic abundance of natural gas is America’s advantage. Here at home, it has transformed our energy landscape, and the affordable and stable prices that our residential and commercial customers are experiencing are expected to continue for decades to come.
A constant theme throughout the event that drew more than 10,000 people from around the world to our nation’s capital was the interconnection of natural gas trade with our ability to leverage our energy abundance for the betterment of friends and allies.
America’s wealth of natural gas resources, spurred by technological advances, has been a boon to our economy and brought our nation’s carbon emissions to a 25-year low. Equally important, it has fostered and reinforced critical relationships between the United States and countries seeking affordable, reliable and clean fuel sources. The industry leaders, experts and policymakers on-hand at the WGC confirmed that they too see natural gas as the future.
Here in the United States, we are used to considering our energy needs through the lens of our own abundance. We are fortunate to have the resources to invest in innovations and technology that allow us to do more with less. It shouldn’t be lost on us that our position today, thanks to natural gas, is in sharp contrast to where we stood the last time the WGC was hosted here in the United States 30 years ago.
In 1988, natural gas made up less than 10 percent of the United States’ power mix, and growing demand meant that we were soon facing the need to increase our reliance on imports. Today, natural gas makes up nearly one-third of our power mix. We are the world’s largest producer, greatest consumer and still we are a net exporter.
Already, the export of American liquefied natural gas is helping to meet growing demand in Asia where countries like China, Japan and India, among others, seek to incorporate higher volumes of natural gas into their energy mix to improve air quality, enhance resilience and keep energy costs affordable for consumers.
For many countries, the energy debate is not only one of meeting demand with as clean a fuel as possible, but also one of health and security at their most basic levels. Over 1 billion people today remain in energy poverty, or lack access to electricity. Too often, this means that people — usually women and girls — are cooking without ventilation using charcoal, sticks or dung and spending significant portions of their days foraging for those raw materials.
Access to natural gas, or its derivatives, can be nothing short of a lifesaver. To put that into context, 3.8 million people die each year from cooking related to indoor air pollution-caused illness.
Consider, too, Eastern Europe, where countries remain dependent on natural gas from sources outspoken about their willingness to use energy as political leverage. In the face of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would transport natural gas from Russia to Western Europe, bypassing Eastern Europe entirely, the potential of American LNG to play a larger role in ensuring our allies in the region have energy security through diversity is more important than ever.
The United States is taking steps to meet this challenge. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, a consistent advocate for the role natural gas can play in enhancing energy security at home and abroad, has been vocal about the opportunity for U.S. LNG in Eastern Europe.
Even more explicitly, Sempra and the Polish Oil and Gas Co. signed a long-term contract recently that will supply Poland with gas from the Port Arthur LNG facility in Texas. It was one of the highlights from the WGC, and one which perfectly exemplifies the power of strong, global natural gas trade.
The story of U.S. natural gas over the last decade is one of American innovation and ingenuity at its best. The United States’ leadership in the world’s energy markets helps us support our friends and allies, safeguard our shared values and improve quality of life throughout the world. These have always been the benefit of free trade. Our continued and active engagement in the international natural gas market is a key component of maintaining our role as a global superpower.
Dave McCurdy is president and CEO of the American Gas Association.
Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.