The Entire Push To Halt New Natural Gas Exports Traces Back To One Ivy League Prof And His Shaky Study

by Nick Pope at

A questionable study by a Cornell University climate scientist gave climate activists and the media ammunition to wage a pressure campaign against the Biden administration to take action against liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

Cornell’s Robert Howarth authored the October 2023 study, which purported to find that lifecycle emissions associated with LNG exports are far greater than those attributable to domestically-mined coal. Numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, amplified the study, and climate activists lobbying the Biden administration to kill LNG exports cited it as evidence to substantiate their position before the White House announced the moratorium on LNG export terminal approvals on Jan. 26.

The study, titled “The Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Exported from the United States,” found that “greenhouse gas emissions from LNG are also larger than those from domestically produced coal, ranging from 44% to more than 2-fold greater for the average cruise distance of an LNG tanker.” Howarth, who openly opposes the use of fossil fuels, admitted to releasing his study before it was peer-reviewed in order to influence the LNG export debate.

“According to the ethical guidelines from several of the professional societies to which I belong, scientists have a duty to provide information to the public and to decision-makers on important public issues when they have access to such information,” Howarth told the DCNF.

Howarth said environmental activist Bill McKibben was the one who convinced him to release the study before it underwent the months-long peer review process. McKibben himself wrote about the study in The New Yorker in October 2023, touting it as evidence that the Biden administration should not expand LNG export capacity.

After McKibben published his piece for The New Yorker and Howarth released the study to the public, the duo joined a November 2023 press call alongside several climate activists and Democratic lawmakers — including Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley — to talk about the issue of LNG exports, according to E&E News.

“From what I am told by reporters and what I read in the press, yes, my paper has had some impact,” Howarth said.