By Ben DuBose
HOUSTON -- The president of ExxonMobil Chemical made a
strong stand Wednesday in support of US natural gas exports,
decrying opposition efforts as protectionist and
Speaking at the IHS World Petrochemical Conference, Stephen D.
Pryor continued Exxons war against industry rivals such as Dow Chemical that
say the US would be better served by exporting manufactured
goods rather than raw materials.
Protectionist pleas are often wrapped in pious appeals to
nationalism, the ExxonMobil Chemical president said.
The real agenda is to unlevel the playing field and
As an industry, we must vigorously oppose
protectionist measures that limit access to markets around the
ExxonMobil is one of several companies seeking permission
from the Obama administration to build a natural-gas export
terminal in Texas.
Mr. Pryor cited the US-EU free trade agreement and the
Trans-Pacific Economic Partnership as examples of positive
free-trade initiatives, noting that the American Chemistry
Council (ACC) trade group supports both.
On the other hand, he contends that blocking LNG exports
would undermine efforts to build closer trading ties.
These proposals to block LNG investments justified by
artificial price gaps represent a selective and harmful
departure from free market and free trade principles, Mr.
Pryor said, leading into a series of rhetorical questions.
For example, why should the EU drop tariffs on
American chemicals made from US natural gas if the US blocks
exports of that gas in liquefied form?
Likewise, how can US secure sanctions against China
for restricting exports of rare earth minerals without inviting
sanctions on the US for restricting exports of natural gas?
How can the US ask Japan, a close ally still suffering
from energy shortages, to stop importing oil from Iran, if
we prevent Japan from importing gas from the US?
Mr. Pryor said he also believed that opposing LNG exports
would be harmful to domestic policy.
It would return the US to the era of price controls in
1970s and 1980s, he said. Those price controls then
on natural gas produced a tremendous drop in production, as
well as supply shortages. That caused price spikes and overall
diminished economic activity.
The eventual deregulation of natural gas in 1980s
created free market conditions that spawned the age of
unconventional oil and gas, he continued. The
voices back then that opposed deregulation are wrong, just as
they are wrong today for advocating new controls on natural
Mr. Pryor said that studies he has seen project no significant increase in
the price of US natural gas if LNG exports are approved.
Thats because LNG exports would prompt increased
supply and production from Americas ample
resources, he said.
Critics allege that Dow and other similar companies are
seeking to retain the advantage of cheap gas-derived ethane feedstock, which has been cited as
the foundation for new US petrochemical proposals.
The point is this, Mr. Pryor concluded.
Protectionism and price controls defy economic logic,
defy historical experience and undermine prosperity and
progress, both here and abroad.
Free markets and free trade are extraordinary engines
that are proven to stimulate investment, create jobs and build
closer ties among nations.
The conference continues through Thursday at the Hilton
Americas in downtown Houston.