President Joe Biden recently announced his administration would pause the approval of new liquefied natural gas exports to reassess their impacts on our families, our country and our planet.

President Joe Biden recently announced his administration would pause the approval of new liquefied natural gas exports to reassess their impacts on our families, our country and our planet. (Department of Energy)

President Joe Biden recently announced his administration would pause the approval of new liquefied natural gas exports to reassess their impacts on our families, our country and our planet. This decision was celebrated as a major victory for climate action — and rightfully so, as the total emissions of all operating and planned LNG export projects would be equivalent to building 688 new coal-fired power plants. But this important step forward is more than just action on climate — it tackles an emerging national security threat that oil and gas CEOs would rather not talk about.

With the Pentagon’s emphasis on the climate crisis as an unprecedented security threat, the pollution associated with unchecked natural gas exports would compound an already dangerous gamble. However, the reckless and unlimited expansion of natural gas exports is currently turning what could be a security asset into a real liability. Right now, America’s rivals are increasingly buying up and importing American natural gas at a record pace. The controversial CP2 project in southwestern Louisiana is already contracted to export its gas to China Gas, for example. With this American energy in adversarial hands, China and others are expanding their influence over the global energy market, controlling a greater and greater volume of U.S. produced gas to build their own power. In other words, our rivals like China are leveraging American LNG to build more influence all over the world — all while our families pay higher energy prices as a result.

It wasn’t always like this. Initially, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s heinous invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. expanded our LNG exports to provide a lifeline to our partners in Europe as Russian gas became unavailable. But the oil and gas industry took this opening and ran wild with it, even after Europe met its necessary gas supply. Fossil fuel CEOs saw the opportunity to grow their cash cow and exploited it. Right now, the U.S. is already surpassing its LNG commitments to Europe, and current exports are sufficient in meeting Europe’s LNG needs. In fact, some are predicting future supply glut given just the status quo.

This excess supply is only said to increase if Biden moves forward with the proposed 20 LNG export facilities he recently paused. The latest data from European economic think tank Bruegel shows European Union natural gas demand was actually 19% below the 2019-21 average in 2023 (January-November). The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found European gas demand is expected to fall further by 2030, noting “The U.S … LNG export capacity in 2030 will be 76 percent higher than Europe’s forecasted demand for the super-chilled fuel in that year.”

But rather than adjusting to reality, the oil and gas industry is claiming our allies still need this gas — all while exporting more and more to China. With no destination restrictions on U.S. LNG exports, companies affiliated with the Chinese government can seize control of the market by selling American-produced LNG anywhere in the world to influence geopolitics.

By turning over U.S. gas to Chinese companies connected to the Chinese Communist Party, their government can stockpile and then sell critical U.S. energy sources to advance China’s interests across the world. In the event of future conflicts, their contractual control of U.S. energy resources could prove extremely dangerous to our country and empower our opponents, totally defusing any strategic value these LNG exports may have had.

To put it plainly, letting China buy up huge quantities of American LNG and leverage it to expand their influence over the global energy market is a serious risk to our national security, one that could harm our ability to sufficiently respond in moments of crisis. Rather than functioning as an asset, LNG exports are now being leveraged by America’s rivals like China to take control of key sectors of the global energy economy due to American oversupply. Coupled with the fact that they greatly exacerbate climate change and the challenges it poses to the safety and security of our nation’s military personnel around the globe, LNG exports must be assessed for their risks across the board.

The Biden administration is making the prudent move for our national security and our nation by pausing new approvals and looking closely at the risks involved with the ongoing LNG buildout. Moreover, they’ve wisely created a carve-out to reconsider this pause in case of international emergency — a common-sense step forward. It is critical that the Department of Energy investigates the impacts of the unrestricted flow of U.S.-produced energy across the globe and enacts reasonable limits to ensure our national security is protected and our rivals can’t use our energy to build their power. A pause and reassessment of new LNG exports can protect Americans now and in the future.

Steve Anderson, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, is a retired logistician, environmental advocate, project manager, business developer and service-disabled military veteran. He is a board member of Vet Voice Foundation, a nonpartisan veterans advocacy organization that represents more than 1.5 million veterans and military families.

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