Obama says U.S. natural gas exports could help Central America
Sat May 4 2013 8:39pmBST
* Closes out three-day Latin America tour
* Obama administration mulling natural gas exports
* Opposed by some U.S. interests
By Steve Holland and Isabella Cota
SAN JOSE, May 4 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in Central America on Saturday that the United States might be able to help relieve that region's growing energy demands by exporting liquefied natural gas, a move opposed by some U.S. businesses and environmentalists.
At a development forum that ended his three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, Obama held out the prospect that surging supplies of natural gas in the United States could be sold in the area to help reduce its energy costs.
Obama's Energy Department is to decide in the coming months, possibly this summer, whether to approve more than two dozen applications for natural gas exports to companies in countries that do not currently have a free-trade agreement with the United States. It is one of the first big energy decisions he faces early in his second term.
Obama made a case for taking the step. The United States, riding a surge of natural gas production, is likely to be a net natural gas exporter as soon as 2020, he said.
He said he discussed with Central American presidents at a dinner on Friday night how U.S. natural gas can be used by the region as a bridging mechanism to relieve its energy demands until alternative energy sources can be increased.
"I've got to make an executive decision broadly about whether or not we export liquefied natural gas at all," Obama said. Helping Central America would be a factor in the decision-making, he added.
U.S. companies that produce the gas feel the supply is more than adequate, but some U.S. businesses oppose large-scale liquefied natural gas exports out of concerns it will dramatically increase the price of the energy in the United States.