Leaders Ask Why We’re Exporting Fossil Fuels

The “battle over energy exports is intensifying” and at the same time we have no coherent national export policy were the primary takeaways from an event called “Power Play: Fossil Fuels and U.S. Export Strategy” held this morning at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Coal, refined petroleum products from tar sands, and natural gas are currently being exported to hungry overseas markets, and the event was designed to look at the implications of these decisions.

Panelists Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) bemoaned the fact that the United States does not have a national strategy on exports. Wyden accused the country of being “on autopilot” to an energy export policy, which could have tremendous economic, social, and environmental consequences. He expanded:

So I have been somebody who’s been expansionist on trade and think that we ought to have freer trade, have fairer trade, but we also need to have smarter trade. And allowing energy producers — we haven’t really touched on this — to trade away our international competitiveness and our energy independence by exporting the resources right now without thinking through the implications here of what it means for consumers and our companies doesn’t strike me as a smart trade policy.

Watch it:

As the price of natural gas continues to plummet, pressure to export it as liquefied natural gas has increased, and last year the U.S. was a net exporter of refined petroleum products for the first time since 1949. As well, the coal industry is preparing to significantly increase exports of American coal overseas. In response to these trends, the members detailed four critical areas that could be impacted by exports, which they believe need more careful consideration: domestic energy, national security, consumer prices, and environmental impacts.


A second panel addressed different perspectives on coal exports. Panelists represented the energy finance industry, Pacific Northwest residents impacted by coal export traffic and terminals, landowners concerned about the impacts of mining, and a labor and environmental alliance.

Markey, who released a report at the event entitled “Drill Here, Sell There, Pay More,” summed up the need for serious thinking on exports by saying:

We should first decide what we want to do for the United States of America.

Jessica Goad is Manager of Research and Outreach for the Center for American Progress Action Fund. This piece was originally published at ThinkProgress Green.JR: I’ll look at the environmental impacts of gas exports in a later post. See also “Coal Exports Are Bigger Threat Than Tar Sands Pipeline.”