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Legislation would allow NATO allies to tap U.S. natural gas exports

December 12, 2012
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The U.S. Congress should give European allies access to burgeoning supplies of U.S. natural gas, Republican Senator Richard Lugar said on Wednesday, proposing a new law that he said would improve energy security in a critical region, according to a report from Reuters.

Lugar, the veteran top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said his bill would advance U.S. interests by helping allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reduce their dependence on natural gas from Russia, and also help Turkey wean itself from Iranian supplies.

"My legislation would place NATO allies on equal footing with free trade partners under U.S. law in providing for automatic licenses for U.S. (liquefied natural gas) exports," Lugar said in a letter to the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

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Lugar said increased U.S. exports would augment but not replace the need for the so-called "Southern Corridor" pipeline system to move natural gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey and Europe.

The bill likely will be the last legislation introduced by Lugar. After 35 years in the Senate, he will retire later this month, having lost a primary race earlier this year to a more conservative rival.

Lugar, a long-time advocate for the Southern Corridor who traveled its route in 2006, urged his colleagues to try to advance the bill, which would need to find approval from the Democrat-controlled Senate before it would have a chance of becoming law.

Lugar's bill comes as the Obama administration faces tricky decisions on proposals to broaden exports of natural gas beyond countries with which the U.S. has free trade deals.

Domestic production has boomed, leading to a glut. But domestic manufacturers argue opening up exports would hike their gas prices, and have attracted some strong supporters for their cause in Congress.

Lugar's proposal would go part way toward liberalizing U.S. natural gas exports while achieving foreign policy goals, his staff argued in a report to his Senate colleagues.

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