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Biden’s liquified natural gas halt sparks outcry from energy giants

A pause on exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) is facing backlash from some of the world's biggest energy giants, like Shell.
A pause on exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) is facing backlash from some of the world's biggest energy giants, like Shell.

The US President’s pause on pending and future permits to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to non-Free Trade Agreement countries is facing backlash from some of the world’s biggest energy giants.

The oil sector’s top brass, including Shell’s CEO, have criticised Joe Biden’s move to put on hold any approvals for LNG export terminals, saying the move would “erode confidence” in the reliability of the fossil fuel.

Wael Sawan, who has headed up the Anglo-Dutch energy firm since January 2023, said in an interview with the FT: “I don’t think the recent announcement by the administration necessarily impacts, in the short or medium term, the supply of LNG, but I do think it erodes confidence in the longer term.”

US oil major ExxonMobil, which is currently building a $10bn LNG terminal in Texas, has also rebuked the decision by US officials, voicing concerns about potential consequences for other countries’ energy mix. “It means less US-produced natural gas is available to replace coal around the world – that’s clearly a bad thing,” the firm’s chief financial officer said.

Chevron has also spoken out against the pause, announced by the US Department of Energy last week.

The US is the world’s largest exporter of LNG, having overtaken Australia and Qatar for the first time in 2023. The industry has been one of the great success stories of the US economy since it was properly established in 2016.

But it has also attracted condemnation from climate campaigners, who argue that it embeds reliance on fossil fuels and criticises the carbon intensity of the liquefaction process.