Natural gas exports vital to small business prospects

Raymond Keating
Raymond Keating

While we’re deep into the 2016 election season and political pundits remain focused on the presumed Democrat and Republican presidential nominees, there’s still much left to do on the congressional calendar.

One of the most pressing items our lawmakers will face in coming weeks is the future of the nation’s energy legacy. Currently, House members are gearing up to conference with the Senate on the recently passed Senate Energy Policy Modernization bill.

This is one discussion that states like Colorado will want to focus on as it could have serious implications on one of its most promising industries: energy.

Our nation’s energy renaissance has been highly publicized at both the national and local levels. But what many don’t realize is that to keep the momentum going, Congress must act to remove barriers to increased opportunity. Currently buried in the comprehensive energy package from the Senate is language that will do just that by expediting the review of applications to export U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG).

This would be good news for small businesses and consumers across the nation, including, of course, in Colorado. Despite frequent claims the energy business is only about so-called “Big Oil,” in reality the majority of American companies that invest and innovate in the energy sector are small businesses.

As noted in a November 2014 Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council study, the role of small businesses in key energy sectors in Colorado is clear, with 68 percent to 87 percent of business establishments across key energy sectors in the state having less than 20 workers. That includes 87 percent in the oil and gas extraction sector, 83 percent in the oil and gas operations support sector and 73 percent in the oil and gas pipeline and related structures construction industry.

Promote growth in the energy sector by getting policymaking right, and that’s good news for small business — not just as energy consumers, which is critical, but as producers and suppliers in the energy sector.

And make no mistake, advancing viable LNG export permits will enhance energy investments and production and thereby boost economic, income and employment growth for smaller businesses in Colorado.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released International Energy Outlook 2016 that projects world energy consumption will grow by 48 percent between 2012 and 2040.

And for all of the government talk about and subsidization of assorted renewables, it’s clear the most important sources of energy promise to remain fossil fuels. In fact, by 2040, fossil fuels are expected to still account for 78 percent of energy use.

As the sixth largest producer of natural gas among the 50 states, small businesses and workers in Colorado will benefit from streamlining the approval process for LNG exports. Expanding U.S. exports is a clear economic plus, and that most certainly includes exporting LNG in the global marketplace.