COVID-19

Pandemic puts natural gas projects on hold

Andy Uhler Oct 12, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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David McNew/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Pandemic puts natural gas projects on hold

Andy Uhler Oct 12, 2020
David McNew/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The COVID-19 pandemic has suppressed demand for energy around the world, and the United States is producing a lot of natural gas that doesn’t have anywhere to go.

Last year saw massive investment in liquified natural gas facilities, but that expansion has come to a grinding halt. The price of natural gas is at historic lows, so the plans to expand existing liquified natural gas terminals and build more in the U.S. have been put on hold.

“They may not be put off forever — some just a couple years, some maybe a bit longer,” said Joshua Rhodes, research associate at the University of Texas Energy Institute.

Rhodes said that could hurt workers in places like the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana.

“As that process stops, you’re going to have less need for construction workers; you’re gonna have less need for the engineers and the overseers on those projects,” Rhodes said.

And beyond the stalled projects, Rhodes said reduced LNG exports mean less work for those who already have jobs in natural gas. Because building facilities requires a huge capital investment, they have to remain active for a while, according to Nikos Tsafos, a senior fellow with the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The thing about LNG projects is they have a long time horizon,” he said. “They take about five years to build, and they stay online for 20 plus years.”

Tsafos said that means energy companies have to assume we’ll be consuming natural gas for decades, despite accelerating climate change concerns.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

New COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. are on the rise. How are Americans reacting?

Johns Hopkins University reports the seven-day average of new cases hit 68,767 on Sunday  — a record — eclipsing the previous record hit in late July during the second, summer wave of infection. A funny thing is happening with consumers though: Even as COVID-19 cases rise, Americans don’t appear to be shying away from stepping indoors to shop or eat or exercise. Morning Consult asked consumers how comfortable they feel going out to eat, to the shopping mall or on a vacation. And their willingness has been rising. Surveys find consumers’ attitudes vary by age and income, and by political affiliation, said Chris Jackson, who heads up polling at Ipsos.

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

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