NRDC Report Determines LNG Exports Are a Climate Disaster

WASHINGTON - The export of U.S. liquefied natural gas poses an unacceptable risk to the climate, according to a landmark analysis that looks at the life-cycle emissions of producing, processing, shipping and burning the gas.

Today’s report – Sailing to Nowhere: Liquefied Natural Gas is Not an Effective Climate Strategy – finds that just producing, transporting and liquefying this gas will generate up to 213 million metric tons of new greenhouse gas emissions just in the U.S. by 2030, equal to the annual emissions of up to 45 million cars. And that doesn’t even include the emissions that will be released when that gas is eventually consumed and burned overseas.

As the recent decision by France to reject U.S. LNG imports demonstrates, these staggering emissions are inconsistent with the recent decisions by China, Japan, South Korea and the European Union to set firm deadlines to become carbon neutral. With the incoming Biden administration making bold commitments to decarbonize, it’s imperative that it recognize the peril of LNG, as well.

“When we looked at the full scope of venting, shipping, cooling and burning LNG, it became clear that this industry is incompatible with the actions we need to address climate change, both in the U.S. and around the globe,” said Amanda Levin, a policy analyst at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and co-author of the report.

“Given the urgent threats we face, we cannot lock-in this polluting infrastructure,” said Christina Swanson, director of the Science Center at NRDC and another co-author. “Instead of pursuing these white elephant projects, we should be investing in clean-energy technologies, technologies that are genuine climate solutions.”

Report Details

Sailing to Nowhere includes a detailed analysis of the full life-cycle emissions of LNG. The industry has focused attention on the smokestack emissions, where burning gas emits about half the carbon dioxide of coal. But each step in the production, transport, and liquefaction of gas for export results in greenhouse gas emissions, as well.

Leaks and venting of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, during the production and transport of gas can constitute up to 14 percent of LNG’s lifecycle emissions. Liquefaction, tanker transport across the ocean, and regasification can amount to another 21 percent of total life-cycle emissions for LNG, the report found.

Taken together that means nearly half of the emissions for LNG over a 100-year timeline – 44%, according to this new analysis – come from production, processing and transport. Once those emissions are factored in, LNG shows itself to be a climate disaster.

With LNG exports forecast to increase a staggering 70% from 2019 to 2021, that means LNG-related emissions alone could reverse the 1% annual decline in total U.S. emissions seen over the past decade.

“Federal and state regulators must take this analysis of the full, life-cycle emissions into account when they are deciding how and whether to approve new LNG projects,” Swanson said.

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.​



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