President Joe Biden messaged in January he would pause approval of new U.S. LNG export project permits, partly because a TikToker asked him to.

Toward forming bad energy policy, he could have asked Kathy Castor. The U.S. representative from Tampa, Florida, billboarded some members of Congress’ energy illiteracy in a House hearing on LNG in early February. And like Biden, Castor vote-baited.

The worst: Castor incorrectly blamed U.S. natural gas producers for her constituents’ higher electricity bills in 2023.

Castor chaired a now defunct House committee on the climate that was disbanded after December 2022 when the GOP regained the House majority. Its predecessor had been a committee on energy independence.

Hart Energy fact-checked Castor’s remarks. Higher electricity costs for the Tampa area in 2023 had been expected since the fall of 2022 when Tampa Electric (TECO) announced a state-approved rate increase. That hike was due to higher feedstock costs—natural gas—in 2022.

The reason natural gas prices were higher, though, was a temporary market misperception that global gas would be under-supplied due to Europe rejecting shipments from Russia post-invasion of Ukraine.

In addition, the TECO rate adjustment was to recoup 2022 spending on post-hurricane repairs after Ian and Nicole.

Hart Energy also checked what the 2023 rate was for TECO’s 840,000 accounts: It was roughly the 2023 residential rate in Houston: $161 for 1,000 kWh.

Also, Castor didn’t mention in the House hearing that TECO won state approval in the fall of 2023 for a lower 2024 rate, reflecting 2023’s reduced natural gas prices and the lack of hurricanes. The bill for 1,000 kWh fell to $143 this year. TECO reported this in November.

Also, Castor didn’t mention that TECO began converting its powergen to natural gas from coal during this century. Its Big Bend plant was turned on in 1970 with a coal-fired unit, and three more coal units were added in 1973, 1976 and 1985.

In 2022, the oldest unit was converted to natural gas; two others were retired and the fourth was converted to gas with a coal backup.

Another station, Polk, has a 1974 vintage gas-and-coal unit. A unit added in 2017 primarily uses natural gas.

The third plant, Bayside, was turned on in 2003 using natural gas; a second gas-fired unit was added in 2004.

TECO reported, “…Natural gas has reduced Bayside Power Station’s nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions by approximately 99% to date, plus particulate matter emissions have decreased by more than 93% from 1998 levels.”

Four gas-fired peaking units were added in 2009.

Castor also didn’t mention that she complained in 2019 to the Florida governor’s office about TECO’s conversion from coal to natural gas, calling it “a different dirty fuel source.”

She argued in the complaint for converting Tampa’s powergen wholly to solar and wind. In the February hearing, though, she did not mention that TECO’s rate includes eventual recovery of the $850 million it’s spent on adding 600 megawatts of solar capacity, which is cited in TECO owner Emera Inc.’s annual report.

TECO’s 2023 fuel mix was 85% gas, 10% solar and 5% coal. It expects the switch to gas will save its customers more than $700 million during the next 30 years, it reported, calling it “the most cost-effective fuel to produce power.”

Still grasping for a reason to not export U.S. natural gas to consumers abroad, she said that she didn’t want any more sent to China—one of the world’s largest polluters and users of coal.

Hart Energy checked the latest EIA data. China was the fifth-largest recipient of U.S. LNG (20.3 Bcf) in June 2023, totaling 6.2% of all U.S. LNG exports that month (327.8 Bcf).

Meanwhile, 169.8 Bcf (51.8%) was delivered to Europe, including 45.9 Bcf to the Netherlands (No. 1); 45.6 Bcf to France (No. 2); 18 Bcf to Poland; and the rest to Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Finland and Lithuania.

Other European countries that typically receive U.S. LNG but were full by June were Croatia and the U.K., receiving a combined 57 Bcf in November.

After the Netherlands and France, Japan ranked No. 3 in June (28.0 Bcf); Argentina, No. 4 (22.7 Bcf).

Providing testimony in the House hearing included Toby Rice, president and CEO of EQT Corp.; a Lake Charles, La.-area Chamber SWLA senior vice president; and a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute.

But Castor directed her questions only to an environmental sympathizer, Gillian Giannetti with the Natural Resources Defense Council, who said the Gulf Coast communities she has lived in have high rates of cancer and asthma.

As for Castor’s constituents’ higher energy bills, Giannetti said the cause is LNG exports, “so it has a negative impact on the U.S. public interest and the U.S. economy.”

The Henry Hub price for natural gas the morning of the hearing, Feb. 6, was $2.06/MMBtu.

In a last gasp, Castor cited a Jan. 25 letter to Biden by 60 (of the 705) members of the EU Parliament that said “Europe should not be used as an excuse to expand LNG exports that threaten our shared climate and have dire impacts on U.S. communities.”

Hart Energy looked at the letter. Signing it were members of the parliament’s Green Group, Left Group and Socialist Group.