Q: What’s Fracking Got to Do with Free Trade? A: Japan
By Mitch Jones
Back in September I wrote a blog post on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new “free trade” agreement being negotiated by the U.S. and 10 other Pacific Rim countries. The TPP started under George W. Bush, but it is being pushed hard by President Obama. As I said then, the TPP is a permanent power grab by corporations and financial companies that will make it impossible for the citizens of countries joining the TPP to choose what laws and rules they want to live under. The TPP would permanently enshrine the very economic system that has lead to greater imbalances in income and wealth and increasing economic crises. And, it will be enforced by new international tribunals akin to the WTO.
I also mentioned then that domestic laws designed to protect us from dangerous activities like fracking for shale gas could be undermined by the TPP. But now a new fracking threat is linked to the deal.
Yesterday Japan announced it would be joining the talks on finalizing the TPP. This came about despite strong protests against doing so and heated arguments between politicians. So what does this have to do with fracking in the U.S.?
Japan is the world’s largest importer of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). In 2011 Japan imported 78.8 MT of LNG, more than twice the amount of the second largest importer, South Korea. Now, we know that the oil and gas industry is working hard to export LNG. They are trying to convert LNG import facilities into export facilities, and are working to build the pipelines needed to ship the gas to those facilities. Congress has been looking into these attempts and some legislation has been introduced that would help to curb the potential for these exports, but with Japan joining the TPP we may be in for even a bigger push to export LNG and a bigger push to drill and frack in communities across the country.
With Japan as a free trade partner they would be able to work around any legislation designed to curb U.S. LNG exports. That means they could make demands under the TPP for LNG imports from the U.S. Given their position as the world’s largest importer of LNG they can drive more unhealthy, dangerous fracking here to fuel their economy.
The addition of Japan to the TPP just adds another reason why we need to stop this free trade agreement before it becomes a reality. If you haven’t done so, take a second to sign this petition against the TPP.