At Davos, Rick Perry makes bizarre claim about U.S. fossil fuel exports

Exporting climate-destroying fuels is not "exporting freedom."

Rick Perry wtih Kellyanne Conway March 2, 2017. CREDIT:  Alex Wong/Getty Images
Rick Perry wtih Kellyanne Conway March 2, 2017. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s big push to export fossil fuels should be seen as an effort to spread freedom throughout the world — since it gives countries another choice regarding where they get their energy.

“The United States is not just exporting energy, we’re exporting freedom,” Perry said during a Fox Business interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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For Perry, giving other countries a choice of who satisfies their addiction to climate-destroying fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas is somehow increasing their freedom. But it’s really exporting dependence and exporting carbon pollution.

If the U.S. were to promote zero-carbon fuels, like solar and wind power, however, that would free countries from dependence on anyone’s dirty hydrocarbons.

Indeed, the whole point of the landmark December 2015 Paris climate agreement is that more than 190 of the world’s leading countries unanimously agreed with the overwhelming science that says the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change is to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground.

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Today, thanks to Trump, the United States literally sits alone as the only one of those countries now saying it will abandon this global deal, after the last two other holdouts, Nicaragua and Syria, signed on last fall.

“There’s no strings attached when you buy American LNG [liquefied natural gas],” Perry told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo. “So that’s world-changing.”

Well, American LNG is world-changing — or, rather, climate changing — but not in a good way.

Back in 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy released an analysis of total greenhouse gas emissions from LNG. One of the country’s top methane experts told me at the time, “a close reading of the DOE report in the context of the recent literature indicates that exporting natural gas from the U.S. as LNG is a very poor idea” from a climate perspective.

More recent research paints an equally grim picture. A study in the journal Energy last month on the overall emissions impact of “U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports,” concluded that “emissions are not likely to decrease and may increase significantly due to greater global energy consumption, higher emissions in the U.S., and methane leakage.”

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Total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for LNG are much higher than they are for regular pipeline gas because the liquefaction process is so energy-intensive and because there are even more leaks from that process and from shipping the LNG overseas.

Remember, natural gas is mostly methane, and some 86 times better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. And earlier this month, a NASA analysis found that the jump in fossil-fuel methane emissions in the past decade “is substantially larger than in previous literature.”

And if fracked gas domestically is part of the climate problem, then liquefying that gas and shipping it to other countries is an even bigger problem.

When you add in our exports of coal and oil, then America is one of the biggest exporters of carbon pollution in the world. And that is not exporting freedom.