Chart: The US is officially the world’s biggest LNG exporter

The staggering rise in U.S. exports of the planet-warming fossil fuel comes as the country tries to position itself as a global climate leader.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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(Xu Congjun/Getty Images)

Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

The United States has reached an energy milestone that’s squarely at odds with its ambition to be a climate leader: In the first six months of 2023, it exported more liquefied natural gas or LNG than any other country in the world, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

LNG — fossil gas that’s been cooled into a liquid state that’s easier to store and ship — causes planet-warming emissions at every step from extraction to transportation to burning.

Qatar was the world’s leading LNG exporter for years, until Australia surpassed it in 2021. The two countries have continued to export similar amounts of LNG since. Meanwhile, U.S. exports have skyrocketed. Just seven years ago, the U.S. barely produced or exported any LNG. Now it’s the world leader, and its exports are on track to keep growing.

Most U.S. LNG exports depart from the Gulf Coast, where massive terminals liquefy gas and pump it onto gigantic ships that carry it elsewhere in the world — these days, primarily to Europe. Two-thirds of U.S. LNG exports in the first half of this year went to European Union countries and the U.K., in large part to compensate for the lack of Russian gas as Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds on.

Now the U.S. gas industry wants to ramp up LNG exports dramatically higher, and it has the support of the Biden administration. More than a dozen new export terminal projects have been approved by the federal government, including six that are already under construction, and still more have been proposed.

Battling LNG exports is the next front in the climate fight” in the U.S., The Washington Post reported on Thursday. If all of the planned and proposed new facilities are built, they would result in more greenhouse gas emissions per year than 20 new coal-fired power plants, according to the Environmental Integrity Project, and would be expected to lock in that pollution for decades to come. That’s why climate activists want to force a showdown with the Biden administration” over the issue, as the Post reports. Expect to hear a lot more about this climate threat in the coming months.

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Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.