What You Need to Know About Oil and Gas Exports

Stopping the oil and gas export boom is critical to meet U.S. climate goals.

A large liquified natural gas transport ship sits docked in the Calcasieu River on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, near Cameron, Louisiana.
A large liquified natural gas transport ship sits docked in the Calcasieu River on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, near Cameron, Louisiana. (Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

The U.S. is now the largest exporter of methane gas in the world, and the fossil fuel industry is rapidly building new export infrastructure in the same communities that are already bearing the brunt of fossil fuel pollution. Oil and gas exports undermine our progress on climate and environmental justice and drive up prices for consumers. Earthjustice and our partners are fighting the export boom – and the momentum is on our side.

The Biden administration just announced it will pause approvals for at least 14 pending gas export projects. This signals that it will more seriously factor in climate change impacts in its decision making going forward.

Earthjustice is celebrating this policy shift while continuing to fight in court against the gas industry’s push to expand its exports. Recently, we notched a win against a gas export project in Washington state, and we are challenging another massive LNG project in Alaska.

Here’s what you need to know about oil and gas exports and how we can keep the momentum going.

An Oil and Gas Export Boom is Entrenching Fossil Fuel Use

Fossil fuel companies are pushing a buildout of export facilities to sell oil and gas overseas at record profits.

U.S. gas exports hit a record high in the first half of 2023, entrenching our position as the largest exporter globally. And the industry shows no signs of slowing down. If all the new gas export projects that are proposed or under construction move forward, U.S. export capacity will quadruple. These massive industrial facilities super cool gas into a liquid (“liquified natural gas” or LNG) to be shipped in huge tanker ships to various destinations in places like Asia and Europe. A proposed project in Louisiana called Calcasieu Pass 2 (CP2) would export more LNG than any other facility in the U.S. CP2 alone could produce 20 times the annual carbon emissions of the Willow drilling project in Alaska.

The fossil fuel industry is making false claims about the need for more gas exports to meet demand in Europe and offset Russian gas. But the truth is that the U.S. is already surpassing its targets and, in Europe, import capacity is outpacing demand. Industry also claims that methane gas will help end global reliance on coal — but U.S. gas is increasingly competing with renewable energy in Europe and Asia.

And it’s not just gas exports that are booming. In 2015, Congress lifted a 40-year ban on exporting crude oil. Since then, crude oil exports have skyrocketed, and the U.S. is now the world’s 5th largest oil exporter. In the Gulf, the fossil fuel industry is building offshore deepwater ports to significantly expand exports of crude oil on massive oil tankers. Projects like the Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) in Texas and the Blue Marlin Offshore Port in Louisiana have the capacity to load and export as much as 2 million barrels of crude oil per day.

Frontline communities, U.S. consumers, and the environment are paying the price for this massive export boom. The only winner is the fossil fuel industry and its bottom line.

Oil and Gas Export Terminals Are Massive Carbon Bombs

At a time when the U.S. must urgently transition to clean energy to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, the buildout of oil and gas export infrastructure threatens to keep us locked into decades of fossil fuel use and climate-warming emissions. The CP2 project alone could produce emissions equating to 47 new coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, the proposed offshore oil terminals in the Gulf would emit around three times what the entire U.S. emits each year. The U.S. can’t meet its climate goals if the government keeps greenlighting these export projects.

Frontline Communities Are Paying the Price

Exporting oil and gas locks in pollution overseas, but it also increases pollution here at home. Most export facilities are proposed in the same communities of color and low-income communities that are already overburdened by heavy industry and fossil fuel pollution. These communities are also on the frontlines of climate change. Now they are facing even more pollution from the construction and operation of new oil and gas export facilities. Transporting oil and gas by pipeline, rail, and ship exposes these and other communities to more pollution and the risk of accidents.

The CP2 project would be located next to an existing export terminal that has repeatedly violated its permit. The new facility would increase cancer-causing pollution in nine communities along the Gulf Coast, destroy irreplaceable wetlands and marshes, and threaten the livelihoods of local shrimpers and fishermen. Other proposed export projects would cause similar harm, compounding the impact on frontline communities.

On top of the risks to public health and the environment, exporting oil and gas also drives up home heating and energy prices for U.S. consumers who are already struggling with inflation. Now is not the time to increase costs even more so that oil and gas companies can rake in higher profits overseas.

What the Biden Administration’s Shift on Gas Exports Means

The Biden administration’s decision to rethink how the Department of Energy determines whether LNG export projects are in the public interest is a major step in the right direction. It signals that the administration is listening to advocates and communities who have been urging them to stop greenlighting new fossil fuel projects.  Now we must keep the pressure on to make sure the new process fully considers the environmental and economic risks of approving any more gas exports.

Earthjustice Will Continue Fighting the Buildout of Oil and Gas Exports

Alongside our partners, Earthjustice is fighting oil and gas export projects that harm communities and the environment.

Keep up the fight against gas exports

While we keep the pressure on the Department of Energy to fully consider the climate impacts of LNG exports, there is another government agency that still needs to hear from you on CP2. Write to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and urge them to reject the project. 

Jill is the public affairs and communications officer for climate and energy issues at Earthjustice.

Earthjustice’s Fossil Fuels Program is taking on the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to pursue new paths to profit that not only accelerate the climate crisis, but also continue to cause harm to marginalized communities.