Image of Biden and an LNG terminal over yellow background

Andrea Austria/Media Matters 

Research/Study Research/Study

The fossil fuel industry and right-wing media are losing their minds over Biden's decision to pause part of a dangerous LNG buildout

  • Oil and gas industry leaders and their allies in the right-wing mediasphere are misleadingly touting liquified natural gas (LNG) and criticizing the influence of climate activists after the Biden administration announced a decision to pause approvals for pending LNG export terminals. From these terminals, natural gas cooled into liquid form would be shipped to other countries without U.S. free trade agreements. The buildout would have catastrophic climate impacts.

  • The Biden administration is pausing permit approvals for LNG export terminals, drawing ire from the fossil fuel industry

    • On January 26, the Biden administration officially announced that it would pause the issuing of permits to new LNG export facilities in order to reevaluate the climate criteria that it uses to approve them. The White House cited the climate crisis — which it called “the existential threat of our time” — as a key reason for pausing the new approvals. The temporary pause on permitting does not, however, affect several projects that have already been approved. [The White House, 1/26/24]
    • Since the Department of Energy last analyzed the potential climate impacts of LNG exports in 2018, exports have tripled. The fossil fuel industry is propelling a $100 billion LNG boom in the U.S. (already the top LNG exporter in the world). Facilities that are planned, under construction, or awaiting approval would increase export capacity by 70% by 2030. [The Wall Street Journal, 1/26/24, 1/24/24; Bloomberg 1/10/24]
    • On January 24, 32 oil and gas trade associations sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm objecting to any changes to the DOE’s permitting criteria that could delay the planned expansion of U.S. LNG exports to Europe and Asia. The letter calls potential changes to the permitting process “burdensome” and states that “any action to halt U.S. LNG export approvals would be a major mistake that puts American jobs and allies at risk while undermining global climate goals.” [Politico, 1/25/24; Letter to the Department of Energy, 1/24/24]
  • Right-wing media are platforming and parroting the fossil fuel industry

    • Fox Business host Larry Kudlow said we “desperately need” new LNG terminals. He continued on to say the decision to pause approvals “not only damages our domestic economy and its security, it damages our national security. … It’s just remarkable to me how mistaken their priorities were.” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 1/30/24]
    • OANN host Alison Steinberg claimed that the pause was indicative of a “war on American energy independence” even though it only impacts some exports destined for other countries. Steinberg called the reasoning for the pause outlined in the White House’s statement “talking points for manufacturing consent” for the “mainstream meat puppets.” “It’s just this continued effort to destroy everything that we have here,” she concluded. [OANN, In Focus, 1/29/24]
    • On Fox Business’ Cavuto Live, market analyst and frequent contributor Phil Flynn called the pause “a devastating blow to the environment” and incorrectly claimed twice during the segment that natural gas “burns 80% cleaner than coal.” In reality, natural gas produces about half as much CO2 pollution as coal. Natural gas is mostly made of methane, however, and scientists say methane leaks are likely much worse than previously thought, potentially rivaling the environmental impacts of coal. [Fox Business, Cavuto Live, 1/27/24; Axios, 3/25/22; Inside Climate News, 1/30/20]
    • Kudlow boosted an American Petroleum Institute executive and the president of an investor-owned utility association that wages deceptive public relations campaigns to fight renewable energy. Kudlow called the permitting pause part of the “Green New Deal war on fossil fuels” and featured a clip in which API’s Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Dustin Meyer contended that scarce natural gas supply would lead countries to turn to coal. Kudlow then interviewed the president of the Edison Electric Institute, who claimed that natural gas will have a “positive environmental impact.” EEI has helped lobbyists and fossil fuel industry executives develop controversial strategies for fighting renewable energy campaigns. [Fox Business, Kudlow, 1/26/24; DeSmog, 2/21/23; Energy and Policy Institute 8/27/20]
    • Former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Fox News that Biden is “taking Putin’s position by saying no more LNG." [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 1/26/24]
    • On Fox Business' America Reports, economist and former Ronald Reagan adviser Art Laffer said that pausing the review process was “waging war against energy.” “That's pure and simple and it's just true,” he said, “It's hurting the economy a lot.” [Fox News, America Reports, 1/26/24]
    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk said that pausing permitting to reevaluate climate change impacts “makes no sense” and is based on “abstract ideological fantasies.” He said the idea that “you can transition away from oil and gas” was a “bizarre academic theory.” [Real America’s Voice, The Charlie Kirk Show, 1/26/24]
    • Fox Business host Charles Payne called the decision a “wreckless appeasement to the climate utopia crowd.” He wrote on X, “Natural gas has been and will be the bridge between fossil fuels and an alternative (nuclear best choice now but hydrogen might ultimate answer). It's a gift to have so much we can share with the world for a fortune.” [Twitter/X, 1/26/24]
    • On Fox Business, Payne and right-wing commentator David Bahnsen pushed misinformation about natural gas being a “bridge fuel” and said that pausing the permit approvals would help Putin. “If you want a bridge between fossil fuels and whatever you think can run the world in the future, it has to be natural gas,” said Payne. Bahnsen followed by claiming that the decision would help “one person, Vladimir Putin.” [Fox Business, Making Money with Charles Payne, 1/25/24]
    • Fox News Digital ran an article with the subheading: “Fossil fuel industry says Biden's expected actions would undermine American credibility and threaten American jobs." Writer Thomas Catenacci quoted several industry executives in the article who claimed the decision “would hurt the climate and lead to increased emissions,” but did not include any details about potential climate impacts. Even though demand for LNG is waning in Europe, Catenacci also insisted that “LNG export facilities are vital to meet energy demand in Europe and Asia as nations look to wean off Russian natural gas supplies.” [Fox News, 1/25/24; Energy Monitor, 4/6/23]
    • Fox Business host Cheryl Casone said on Fox & Friends First that “this would shock the global energy market if they start putting the breaks on projects like this.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 1/26/24]
    • Former Trump Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Neil Chatterjee said on Fox Business' The Evening Edit that these LNG “projects are vital to energy security, to our geopolitical allies.” He also said the climate activists “are just ignoring” that U.S. LNG “lowers global carbon emissions.” [Fox Business, The Evening Edit, 1/25/24]
    • The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board suggested that an LNG permit pause would “hurt allies and the U.S. economy to please the climate change lobby.” [The Wall Street Journal, 1/22/24]
    • Kudlow claimed the Biden administration “won’t permit any new LNG projects and installations, which is just as nutty as can be.” [Fox Business, Kudlow, 1/15/24]
    • Fox Business’ Lauren Simonetti said that reevaluating the permitting process would hurt the United States’ “reliability on the world’s stage” and complained that it’s already too long. “The greens would be satisfied, but our reliability on the world stage, to heck with that, right? These are numbers from the American Petroleum Institute, to kind of highlight how bad this administration is for our energy security: In this administration, 330 days to review an LNG permit. Almost a year. Trump, 49 days.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 1/10/24]
  • The fossil fuel industry’s plan to radically increase capacity for LNG exports would end up harming Americans and our allies

    • The climate impact of the buildout would be catastrophic. In a 2023 study, biochemist and Cornell University professor Robert Howarth found that “‘natural’ (methane) gas may be 24 percent worse for the climate than coal in the best-case scenario” due to leaks at every stage of production. If the buildout went as the fossil fuel industry intended, the Sierra Club estimates that new LNG terminals would produce the same amount of pollution annually as 532 coal plants." [The New Republic, 11/2/23; Truthout, 11/10/23]
    • LNG production and transport is risky and dangerous. According to E&E News, the process of liquefying and shipping natural gas is “fraught with uncertainty.” Methane leaks, which occur frequently, can cause explosions if they reach an ignition source, as was apparently the case at a plant in Texas in 2022. The incident forced the facility to close temporarily and “knocked about 20 percent of U.S. export capacity offline for months, disrupting the United States’ plan to replace Russian gas in Europe.” [E&E News, 6/28/22]
    • There is no guarantee that LNG exports would be used to replace coal, and a significant amount would not be going directly to our allies in Europe. According to Canary Media, “The president and federal agencies have no power to guarantee that the countries buying American LNG will use it to replace coal, as the 2018 DOE analysis assumed they would.” Additionally, only about a fifth of LNG from eight proposed terminals would be going directly to European customers, while over half would go to commodity trading firms and other portfolio buyers. [Canary Media, 1/23/24; Public Citizen, 1/24/24]
    • The buildout would mean more volatile gas prices for American consumers. As U.S. LNG exports have increased, making it an increasingly global commodity, gas prices for Americans have soared. According to the Center for American Progress, “If the industry continues to increase LNG exports, this will raise domestic natural gas prices, prop up domestic production when it should be declining, shift greenhouse gas emissions overseas, and make the United States vulnerable to international price swings.” As recently as August 2023, gas prices were still “at their highest level of all time” in 10 states. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, 5/23/23; Center for American Progress, 11/6/23; Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, 11/30/23]
    • The buildout would undermine renewable energy progress. A recent study found that “greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from United States fossil fuel exports are increasing in amounts greater than the GHG reductions being achieved from the extensive clean energy incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act.” [Symons Public Affairs, 9/15/23]
    • Even if most of the LNG exports were going to European customers, demand for natural gas is waning and overcapacity has the potential to create a glut. Experts have called the LNG buildout “overzealous” and have expressed concerns about overcapacity and sunken costs. Ben Cahill, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “There is definitely a risk that we are overbuilding, with a lot of capacity in the United States and Qatar that might not be used in five years, if you have a rapid diversion away from gas.” [Energy Monitor, 4/6/23; Reuters, 10/24/23]
    • Voters want a thorough approval process for new LNG facilities. Polling from Data for Progress and Fossil Free Media found that “voters support limits on natural gas exports by a 2-to-1 margin and want to see new export facilities paused until the proper reviews are completed.” [Data for Progress, 11/14/23]
  • Right-wing media claimed that radical climate activists control the Biden administration’s agenda after social media campaigning led to White House meetings

  • Frontline communities along the Gulf Coast have long been vocally opposed to the development of new fossil fuel infrastructure. On TikTok, climate activists campaigned to garner support from Gen Z in their effort to pressure the administration to reevaluate its permitting process and pause approvals for new LNG export terminals. They honed in on Calcasieu Pass 2, the largest planned project. The New York Times reported that officials met with some of the young activists who led the social media campaigns before the decision. 

    Right-wing media presented the meetings as evidence that the administration was letting TikTok set its policy agenda. But by law, the Department of Energy must ensure that gas exports destined for countries without U.S. free trade agreements are in “the public interest” before it authorizes new facilities. In reality, Biden’s so-called concession to activists was anything but radical

    • On Cavuto: Coast to Coast, guest-host David Asman spoke with climate denier Alex Epstein, who said, “It just seems like he [Biden] wanted to appease a bunch of TikTok people who don’t know anything.”  [Fox Business, Cavuto: Coast to Coast, 1/30/24]
    • Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and former Trump energy secretary Rick Perry complained that climate activists and TikTok have too much influence over policy. Bartiromo claimed that because some Biden officials met with climate activists who have popular TikTok accounts, they are “the people making policy decisions on America's energy.” Perry said it sends “the real message of who is really running the White House today.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 1/29/24]
    • Climate denier Marc Morano claimed that Biden is “caving to environmental activists” to “enable China to become the global dominance.” Morano said that Biden’s decision was driven solely by activists who oppose natural gas exports because “storms are bad.” He later argued, “It goes back to Donald Trump's 2013 tweet — this is the all designed, this whole climate hysteria, to enable China to become the global dominance.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 1/27/24]
    • The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board claimed that “President Biden isn’t running for re-election. Climate lobbyist Bill McKibben and his TikTok army are.” [The Wall Street Journal, 1/26/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham said that “weird influencers” were Biden’s “top policy advisers” in his decision to pause the permits. “OK, we thought Joe Biden was using those weird influencers to kind of score points with younger voters, be hip, be cool,” she said, referring to the TikTok campaign and Biden’s meeting with activists. “But apparently, they are some of his top policy advisers.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 1/26/24]
    • Fox Business’s The Bottom Line ran a segment with the chyrons “Biden bows to the climate crazies” and “Biden bends the knee to climate activists with pause to natural gas export project.” [Fox Business, The Bottom Line, 1/26/24]
    • On Newsmax, former Trump Environmental Protection Agency official Mandy Gunasekara told Chris Plante that the pause “is about control, which this administration is obsessed with because they have sold out to anti-development leftist activists that want to shut things down in the name of climate change.” [Newsmax, Eric Bolling The Balance, 1/26/24]