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What we learned on LNG

Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk

Turk testifies Feb 8. Photo: Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deputy Energy Secretary David Turk got a grilling Thursday from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the LNG permits pause.

Why it matters: The kvetching may not lead to legislating, but it's clear this is quickly becoming the most important political issue in energy world for the 2024 election cycle.

Here are the key takeaways from the hearing, which was interrupted twice by protestors...

🛡️ Playing defense: The testimony shed some light on what the Biden administration is thinking about this — and how it will be responding to GOP critics.

  • Turk emphasized the potential economic impacts of LNG exports. Yes, these projects create jobs, he said, but DOE is concerned more exports would tighten the domestic supply and lead to higher prices for U.S. consumers.
  • "Since 2018, when our last macroeconomic analysis was updated, there have been truly transformational changes," he said.
  • "We also need to better understand the downstream climate impacts of more and more volumes of U.S. LNG exports, especially over the long term."

⏰ Timeline politics: Turk repeatedly declined to offer a specific timeline for the pause, but he said DOE would complete its review "as quickly as we possibly can — months, not years."

  • "My guess, and I think it's probably a pretty well-educated guess, [is] that it will conveniently not be concluded prior to the election," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

📝 Process matters: Turk said the national labs will be heavily involved in conducting climate, national security and economic analysis of LNG exports.

  • Then, the review will be out for a 60-day public comment period.
  • With Republican states claiming the pause is illegal, Turk said DOE feels "very comfortable of our legal position here."
  • "Frankly, I think it'd be irresponsible if we weren't taking a step back and doing this kind of rigorous analysis."

🗣️ Don't hold your breath: Sen. John Kennedy, ranking member on the Energy-Water Approps panel, told Axios this could come up as lawmakers debate spending bill riders.

  • "We've got a number of bills we're going to try and pass to reverse President Biden's deep and profound vacuity and stupidity," he said.
  • House Republicans also want to move legislation that would take away DOE's authority to conduct this review, but there's no chance of it getting 60 votes in the Senate.
  • One other thing to watch: Kennedy's announcement that he'll block DOE and State Department nominees until the pause is lifted.
  • He said he has only heard "indirectly" from the administration about his hold via other senators.
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