1. NATURAL GAS
Risky U.S.-backed loans and a diplomatic blitz force debate over LNG costs
The White House is under pressure to help a key ally, Japan, whose costs for importing liquefied natural gas to power its cities has nearly doubled since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. The high price Japan pays to buy gas has punched a massive hole in its balance of trade. Japan's tenacious lobbying effort is pulling the White House into open discussions about the U.S. role in providing cheaper gas to major economic partners in Asia, despite opposition from U.S. manufacturers. So far, the administration has quietly supported the expansion of LNG in Asia through nearly $8 billion in U.S. Export-Import Bank loans to Exxon, ConocoPhillips and other companies building massively expensive LNG projects in and around Australia.