Biden Scraps Obama’s Legacy

Center for American Progress Action Fund from Washington, DC, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

( – The current administration under President Biden, alongside Democratic allies, is revising a longstanding approach to energy policy that was initiated under the guidance of their predecessor, President Obama. This revision is particularly focused on the domain of natural gas exports, a sector aggressively expanded by Obama as part of his broader climate and energy strategy, and largely maintained by Biden throughout his initial term.

However, in a significant shift, President Biden announced early on Friday that his administration would temporarily halt the issuance of permits for a portion of the new gas export terminals that are pending federal approval. This decision is aimed at allowing the administration to thoroughly evaluate the effects of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports on various fronts, including energy costs, national energy security, and environmental implications.

This move by Biden, prompted by strong advocacy from within his own party, environmental groups, and communities located near the proposed terminal sites, aims to address concerns that these terminals would significantly increase the consumption of fossil fuels and undermine efforts toward renewable energy adoption, thereby exacerbating climate change challenges.

The gas industry defends its stance by arguing that natural gas, which emits fewer pollutants than coal when burned, can contribute to global emission reduction efforts. Nonetheless, critics counter this argument by highlighting research that suggests even minimal leakage from natural gas infrastructure could negate these environmental benefits, making natural gas as detrimental to the climate as coal.

This pause and the subsequent review signify a departure from the policies of the Obama era, which did not view the promotion of natural gas and climate action as conflicting interests. The Obama administration had endorsed natural gas as a transitional fuel to bridge the gap between a coal-dominated energy system and a future powered by renewable energy sources. This perspective was bolstered by a significant increase in U.S. gas production, which led to the establishment of the country’s first gas export industry during Obama’s tenure.

Under Obama, the U.S. saw a dramatic rise in gas production and the approval of the country’s first LNG export terminals, a trend that continued and expanded under the Trump administration, despite a rollback of other climate initiatives. The Biden administration has, until now, followed a similar trajectory, supporting gas exports as beneficial for climate efforts due to natural gas’s comparative advantages over other fossil fuels.

However, recent pressures from various stakeholders, including Biden’s party base, manufacturing sectors, and communities in proximity to export terminals, have led to a reevaluation of this stance. With the new pause on LNG export approvals, the Biden administration is taking a step back to reassess the role of natural gas exports in the broader context of energy policy, climate goals, and international relations, marking a nuanced shift in the federal government’s approach to energy exports and climate strategy.

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