US was world’s largest liquified natural gas exporter last year

The U.S. was the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) in 2023, according to federal data released Monday.

U.S. exports of the fossil fuel last year surpassed those of major exporters Qatar and Australia, and it amounted to 12 percent more American gas shipped than in 2022, the independent Energy Information Administration said.

The increase comes as Europe, the primary customer for U.S. gas exports, is looking to move away from another major supplier, Russia, in the wake of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

It also comes as the Biden administration is facing increasing political pressure — particularly from climate activists — over its natural gas exports.

In response to objections to the nation’s growing gas exports, the administration paused approvals for some new natural gas export projects earlier this year — though that pause does not impact existing exports or projects that are already under construction.

Experts have also debated the environmental impacts of U.S. natural gas exports, given that the fuel does contribute to climate change, but displaces even-dirtier coal in some nations.

High oil and gas production numbers have presented a political tightrope for the administration — as it seeks to show progressive and mainstream Democrats that it is taking climate action, while also combatting right-wing attacks over not being friendly-enough to fossil fuels.

The U.S. energy statistics agency said that the increase in U.S. exports came in response to strong European demand and high international prices. The return of Texas’s Freeport LNG plant in 2023 after a 2022 fire also bolstered the nation’s export numbers.

U.S. LNG export levels set records in November and December.

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