WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday to speed permits for exports of natural gas, a measure that even if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama, is not expected to help bring much new fuel to global markets.
Lawmakers voted 277 to 133 to approve the bill, sponsored by Republican Bill Johnson of Ohio, that would force the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to decide within 30 days on applications to export liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
But analysts said the measure would do little to expedite export permits as bureaucratic and economic forces prevent a rush into an industry that requires the construction of billions of dollars of new equipment for each project.
"It isn't likely to be decisive in terms of the U.S. LNG export picture," said Kevin Book, energy policy analyst at ClearView Energy Partners.
Oil prices have fallen by nearly 60 percent since last June, making it harder for U.S. sellers of LNG to compete with traditional sellers from Qatar to Australia.
Slowdowns in Asia's leading economies have also reduced demand for global LNG.
Book also said the bill does not do enough to push permissioning at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) the other agency responsible for clearing LNG projects.
The DOE considers applications for LNG exports after the FERC assesses their safety and environmental impacts.
Washington has fully approved at least five LNG projects. The first new project, Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass, which was fully approved in 2012, is expected to start shipping later this year.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, but supporters said they expect to work with lawmakers in that chamber to pass the bill and send it to Obama's desk.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, editing by G Crosse)