Joe Manchin’s “dirty deal” to greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and gut crucial safeguards that give communities a say in the permitting of energy projects is back again. But this time, the Biden administration has weighed in to explicitly support the 300-mile proposed fracked gas pipeline that would cut through Appalachia.
Manchin and the Biden administration are promoting this project by claiming MVP will “help our allies” and is in the interest of “national security” and “energy security.” But claims that MVP would help Europe or benefit national security — in Europe, in the United States, or anywhere else — are wildly unfounded.
Mountain Valley is not an export pipeline, and it will not even free up gas that can then be exported to European allies. Lack of liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal capacity is the limiting factor in the United States’ ability to export gas, not lack of pipelines or lack of gas supply. Expanding existing export terminals or building new ones will take several years due to construction lead times, regardless of permitting timelines. LNG export terminals also have a history of unreliability due to regular outages, demonstrating their value for energy security is overblown. Additionally, LNG export terminals have significant impacts on nearby environmental justice communities and the climate.
Although Europe is looking for gas in the short term to wean itself from Russian supply, the European Union’s five-year plan and updated European Green Deal legislation call for dramatically slashing gas demand. This means that even if the United States builds new export capacity, it will arrive far too late to help European allies.
MVP also will not serve to increase the United States’ “energy security” because there will be no need for the gas it would transport. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that gas demand in the Southeast, the region MVP would serve, is already well supplied by existing pipelines, and will actually fall by at least 7% from 2019-2030. Nationally, EIA — which has a long history of underestimating renewables growth — expects gas consumption to fall from current levels from now until 2050. The United States is already the world’s leading gas exporter; we don’t need additional fossil fuel infrastructure to ensure domestic supply.
Manchin and Biden have remained vague about what they mean in terms of “national security,” but building more gas pipelines like Mountain Valley does not increase the United States’ security under any definition. Natural gas prices are highly volatile, and with utilities in the Southeast region proposing record rate increases due to natural gas price increases, gas is not a commodity we should be hooking our economy to for decades to come. Meanwhile, exporting LNG actually raises gas prices for customers in the United States.
Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas pollutant that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of warming impact on our climate. Impacts to drinking water, the risk of pipeline explosions, construction accidents, and increasing climate catastrophe fueled by fossil fuels make communities across Appalachia and the entire United States less safe and secure.
Instead of building out new dirty gas projects, U.S. politicians and regulators should be focused on a just transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency. This month, nearly 300 organizations sent a letter to President Biden and Congress that maps out an equitable transition to renewable energy without gutting bedrock environmental laws or boosting fossil fuels. The data and decades of examples are clear: ending dependence on fossil fuels in the United States is what’s best for communities, the climate, and energy security.
As Manchin and Biden surrogates trot out tired and debunked talking points to support more dangerous lock-in of fossil fuels, our briefing “Everything Joe Manchin says about the Mountain Valley Pipeline is Wrong” remains a helpful resource in rebutting these claims.