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Should US export natural gas? Study for DOE fuels fiery debate.

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There are limits, however. For instance, according to the study's conclusions:

• Under current economic conditions, there is not enough supply in the US, or demand overseas, to make LNG exports a reality. Of course, that's projected to change as demand increase overseas and shale-gas production costs in the US fall further. Still, the study said, "under status quo conditions in the world and the US ... there is no feasible level of exports possible from the US.”

• US natural gas prices would not suddenly rise to the level of world prices, as some analysts fear, the study says. Instead, "US exports will drive prices down in regions where US supplies are competitive."

• Overall consumer wellbeing in the US improves under all LNG export scenarios. Welfare improvement is highest under the high export volume scenarios because US consumers benefit from an increase in wealth transfer and export revenues." 

Among the winners, the study says, would be natural gas producers, who would see broadly positive income gains. But losers would include those US manufacturers with big energy expenditures and big exposure to foreign competition. Companies with those characteristics employ about one-half of one percent of US workers, including in the chemical, fertilizer, cement, paper, glass, and other industries.

Kevin Book, energy analyst with ClearView Energy Partners, an energy market research firm, writes that for users of natural gas, the “largest price increases that would be observed after [five] more years of potentially growing exportswould be somewhere between 22 cents and $1.11 per thousand cubic feet of gas, according to the study. That's good news for “owners of natural gas resources” and investors in those gas producers, Mr. Book writes, but negative for households that depend on government assistance and households without investments.

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