Sending surplus U.S. natural gas abroad will benefit the country's economy more than harming it, a highly anticipated U.S. study said on Wednesday, offering the Obama administration a basis for possibly allowing more exports.
The government-commissioned report, which examined the impact of liquefied natural gas exports in a variety of circumstances, found exports to be positive for the economy under all conditions considered.
"Moreover, for every one of the market scenarios examined, net economic benefits increased as the level of LNG exports increased," the report said. "In particular, scenarios with unlimited exports always had higher net economic benefits than corresponding cases with limited exports."
LNG exports could be a boon for the U.S. economy, said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Futures Group in Chicago.
"The fracking revolution has changed everything - for the last 50 years this country has been built to import energy, but now we are in a position to export," Flynn said, referring to the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing.
Lawmakers and industry leaders had been eagerly awaiting the report, which is expected to help shape the administration's response to more than a dozen proposed export projects.
But the NERA Economic Consulting study, commissioned by the Energy Department, is still far from the end of the road for the government's review process.
The department is now setting aside more than two months to gather public input on the report.
Following the end of the comment period, the department said it would begin to make decisions on the 15 queued applications on a case-by-case basis.
The Obama administration has wrestled with how to manage the nation's newfound shale gas for more than a year, putting export project approvals on hold pending the release of the economic report.
During that time LNG exports have become an increasingly hot-button issue, pitting manufacturers concerned that exports will raise prices against gas drillers, which argue that exports are necessary to keep production going strongly.