What began as an apparent attempt by the Biden administration to punish Texas over the border dispute turns out to be part of a successful campaign by wealthy donors – including the Rockefeller family – to pressure the government into shifting away from Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
As the Wall Street Journal reports, “The Rockefellers, along with other wealthy donors including the philanthropy of Michael Bloomberg, have provided millions of dollars in recent years to front-line environmental groups that are campaigning against fossil-fuel projects, including LNG terminals that have been proposed on the Gulf Coast,” according to anonymous people familiar with the effort, which they claim is four years in the making.
Some green funders hadn’t given much attention to the LNG exports until recently, in part because of ambivalence about the role natural gas should play in the energy transition. Plus, some previous campaigns to kill LNG terminals had been unsuccessful, damping some donors’ and large environmental organizations’ appetite for taking on the industry.
The billionaire-backed campaign, starting around four years ago, worked to identify and fund community leaders already campaigning against fossil-fuel projects. The activists buttonholed White House and federal officials in Washington, Houston and Dubai as part of a high-intensity grassroots campaign. -WSJ
Last month, the Biden administration effectively froze the approval process for new LNG terminals after the United States was crowned the world’s largest exporter of the commodity. According to the report, admin officials were influenced by environmental groups, as well as new research on emmissions from LNG facilities.
The move rattled the oil and gas industry, prompting House Republicans to hold a hearing on Tueseday – and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to announce an investigation into the decision.
Enter: The Rockefeller Family
In 2018, a fund created by the heirs of John D. Rockefeller (the Rockefeller Family Fund) launched a green fund called the Funder Collaborative on Oil and Gas. Its purpose was to call attention to the US’s status as a massive exporter of oil and gas, and to encourage the green movement to take action. Some of the Rockefeller heirs have been campaigning for years against Exxon Mobil – a descendant of Standard Oil – the fossil-fuel company founded by their ancestor.
In 2019, the Funder Collaborative sent a memo to NGOs to assess their level of interest in a campaign to take on the LNG industry. They dispatched scouts to Gulf Coast, home to several LNG facilities, and met with front-line leaders and organizers in opposition to new projects.
Maybe they want higher prices?
As the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee laid out in a Feb. 4 memo, banning American LNG exports won’t lower domestic energy prices – in fact, “Banning LNG exports will actually mean higher prices at home for Americans.”
Domestic natural gas prices are lower and more stable with free trade and open markets. The decision to ban exports creates uncertainty and discourages investments that would otherwise create jobs and expand the supply of natural gas. Banning LNG exports will actually mean higher prices at home for Americans. We need more American energy production to lower prices—not President Biden’s export ban.
What’s more, preventing exports of LNG to various foreign countries will make them lean more on coal, resulting in more carbon emissions – not less.
The memo also notes that banning LNG exports is not good for the environment.
Clean natural gas is a major reason why the U.S. has reduced emissions more than any other nation. DOE has already studied the climate impacts of U.S. LNG exports, and their reports clearly show the environmental benefits. According to DOE, U.S. LNG exports are also 41% cleaner than Russian natural gas delivered to Europe.
The Journal‘s own comments section is all over this:
So, higher prices and more reliance on coal around the world. Mission accomplished?