Europe gets roughly a third of their total natural gas imports via Russia, and as a a few forward-thinkers have been advocating for a couple of years now, one of the best ways to blunt the influence of the energy supply from any one country or organization is to keep pouring more oil and gas into the global bathtub that is the world’s energy market. OPEC has been in a semi-panic over the United States’ burgeoning shale boom, and if we had done ourselves a favor a while back by permitting more exports of crude oil and natural gas, we might have been in a better position to deal with Russia right now. A bunch of lawmakers are rightfully taking advantage of this moment to push that line of thinking, via Politico:
Momentum is building in Congress to wield the United States’ vast natural gas resources to break Vladimir Putin’s energy stranglehold over Ukraine — although some lawmakers acknowledged their efforts would have no immediate impact on the crisis in Crimea.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced bills Wednesday to make it easier to export natural gas to countries including Ukraine, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on its own legislation. Meanwhile, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) is seeking new momentum for a bill he introduced last year that would give Ukraine, Japan and NATO members the same preferential access to U.S. gas as countries that have free-trade agreements with the United States. …
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told POLITICO he’s open to consulting with Congress on the issue, but he stressed that the U.S. doesn’t have the capacity to flood Europe with gas. “The fact is it’s just physically not going to happen,” he said Wednesday. …
Expect other legislative efforts to follow, said Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), a co-sponsor of Barrasso’s and Udall’s bills.
Politico goes on to note that “even if the pressure from Congress prods the Energy Department to move faster, the practical effect anytime soon would be nil” — but that isn’t exactly accurate. It’s true that, even if we started approving export terminals right away, it could take a few years before all of these infrastructure projects are physically up and running, and Ukraine itself doesn’t even have the necessary facilities for converting liquified natural gas back into natural gas for use in power plants — but even just sending out the right pro-infrastructure, pro-production signals on the world market can have a mollifying effect.
The Obama administration has totally dragged its feet on the energy-export front, and now we’re reaping the rewards of that hesitation. Even if approving exports at an accelerated pace would be too little, too late for Ukraine at the moment, now is as good a time as any to get to work and start taking advantage of both the economic and geopolitical benefits for the taking.