American gas prices could double by 2040 as the U.S. exports more liquefied natural gas, but consumers will be shielded as production of the fuel increases and trade balances improve.
That’s the conclusion from a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy that found an almost 50 percent chance of gas reaching $5 to $6.50 per million British thermal units over the next two decades. U.S. consumers won’t suffer, the study said, because LNG exports will boost the economy while higher output helps mitigate the cost.
The U.S. is already shipping record amounts of super-cooled natural gas overseas as production from shale basins surges. The nation is now a net exporter of the fuel for the first time since the 1950s, putting the U.S. on course to rival Qatar and Australia for global LNG dominance in the next five years as new Gulf Coast terminals start up.
U.S. gas futures have averaged about $2.90/MMBtu over the past year amid ample supply. Some groups, including several Democratic lawmakers and manufacturers, have argued that a jump in LNG exports would send prices sharply higher, hurting consumers.
This latest study, conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, should help assuage those concerns, according to Katie Bays, an analyst at Height Capital Markets. “For policymakers who are on the fence on whether or not capping LNG exports is a good policy objective, this will tell them it shouldn’t be a priority,” she said by telephone.