(UPDATE: As of late Friday, Dow Chemical has officially withdrawn from NAM.)
By TENNILLE TRACY
WASHINGTON -- The debate over whether the US should export
its abundant new supplies of natural gas is creating divisions
within powerful groups that represent some of the nation's
Association of Manufacturers and the American Chemistry Council
both posted statements online this week in support of
natural-gas exports, saying free-trade policies will allow US
businesses to expand.
In response, Dow Chemical, a leading opponent of unfettered
exports, said Thursday it might leave the groups. Dow's future
membership "remains to be seen," said company spokeswoman Nancy
Lamb. "We disagree with ACC and NAM and believe their decisions
on this issue are being influenced by the oil and gas
Until now, NAM has remained largely silent on the issue,
which has divided lawmakers on Capitol Hill and pits energy
companies against US manufacturers that have come to rely on
gas to make their products.
Both groups say they adopted formal positions months ago
that said natural-gas companies should be able to export their
product without restraint. NAM said it reached its position on
natural-gas exports after consulting with its members, which
"represent a wide variety of sectors in the manufacturing
ACC spokeswoman Ann Kolton said Dow was a "highly respected and
highly valued member" of its group.
By showing favor toward natural-gas exports, NAM and the ACC
risk alienating high-profile member companies in industries
such as chemicals and steel. Those companies, including Nucor
Corp. and Celanese Corp., say unlimited shipments to foreign
buyers will create added demand for US natural
gas, raising domestic prices and threatening investment in
Dow and its chief executive, Andrew Liveris, have been
particularly outspoken in opposition to unchecked US gas
exports. They say the US would be better served by exporting
manufactured goods rather than raw materials.
ExxonMobil, which is seeking permission to build a
natural-gas export terminal in Texas, said Dow and the other
companies behind efforts to limit exports were being
"opportunistic" and advocating "protectionist" policies.
ExxonMobil is also a member of NAM.
Earlier this month, Dow, Nucor and Celanese helped to form
America's Energy Advantage, a group that pushes for limits on
natural-gas exports. Other members of the group include Alcoa
and Eastman Chemical.
Alcoa said it would remain a member of NAM, despite
differences of opinion on the export issue. Celanese declined
to comment. Nucor and Eastman Chemical didn't return calls for
The idea of exporting US natural gas has surfaced in the
last few years after advances in drilling techniques unlocked
new supplies that were previously thought to be uneconomical to
The Energy Department is currently reviewing more than a
dozen proposals to export gas to countries lacking a free-trade
agreement with the US, a category that includes major
natural-gas consumers such as Japan and nations in Western
Europe. The department released a report last month finding
that exports would help the US economy.
"Exports have been and continue to be a critical source of
growth and opportunity for manufacturers throughout the United
States, and liquefied natural
gas exports are no exception," NAM vice president Linda
Dempsey said in a blog post Tuesday.
Dow Jones Newswires