Biden pauses approval of new LNG exports, citing climate risk

US overtook Qatar and Australia as the world's largest export of liquefied natural gas last year

A heat exchanger and transfer pipes at Dominion Energy's Cove Point LNG Terminal in Lusby, Maryland. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Friday announced a temporary pause on pending approvals of liquefied natural gas exports because of associated climate risks.

“This pause on new LNG approvals sees the climate crisis for what it is: the existential threat of our time,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

“We will heed the calls of young people and front-line communities who are using their voices to demand action from those with the power to act,” he said.

During this period, the Department of Energy said it will analyse the economic and environmental effects of liquefied natural gas export requests.

The temporary pause will not affect authorised LNG exports, the department said.

Friday's decision was a victory for climate activists but comes as gas shipments to Europe have climbed because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi said the US must be “clear-eyed” about the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis is an existential crisis and we've got to really be forward-leaning into making sure that we're taking that head on,” Mr Zaidi told reporters.

He added that the Biden administration had delivered the world's largest climate investments.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the decision will “not impact our ability to supply our allies in Europe, Asia or other recipients”.

The US exported 88.9 million metric tonnes of LNG last year, Reuters reported, overtaking Qatar and Australia as the world's largest LNG exporter.

Seven LNG terminals are using authorisations for export, according to the Energy Department, while four others are under construction.

American LNG exports played a critical role in supporting Europe after the continent was cut off from Russian natural gas supplies in 2022.

As the top LNG exporter in the world, the US ramped up its exports at the time because of national security concerns.

“Any doubts regarding the stability of US LNG supplies are putting the development of the necessary import structures at risk again raising concerns of potential further price volatility,” Didier Holleaux, president of the Eurogas association, wrote in a statement last week.

Industry groups also blasted Mr Biden's decision, saying a pause on LNG export approvals “would only bolster Russian influence” and undermine US credibility.

The US Department of Energy said the pause could be exempted for national security concerns.

Updated: January 28, 2024, 4:14 AM