Editorial: American Gas For Europe
One silver lining—or sliver of a lining—from the Russian invasion of Crimea is that it may awaken Western Europe from its strategic slumbers.
A sign of hope came Sunday when British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that European leaders may seek to buy more natural gas from the United States.
“This is now beginning to be discussed between European politicians, including ourselves, and Americans,” he told the BBC. Mr. Hague added that there is a strategic case for more U.S. natural gas exports to Europe, as well as for more investment in projects like the Southern Corridor pipeline in Azerbaijan, which would bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe without going through Russia.
Meanwhile, the Ambassadors to the U.S. from Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak republics wrote House Speaker John Boehner last week that U.S. “natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe, and Congressional action to expedite [liquefied natural gas] exports to America’s allies would come at a critically important time for the region.”
It’s a sign of Europe’s post-Cold War complacency that its leaders have taken so long to actively seek to reduce their energy dependence on Vladimir Putin. The old KGB man has signaled his intentions to restore Greater Russia at least since his 2008 invasion of Georgia. Ukraine’s energy minister told reporters Sunday that Russia’s Gazprom is threatening to cut gas supplies and has ended a price discount. Some countries in Western Europe rely on Russia for as much as a third of their supplies and in Eastern Europe more than 70%.
All of this underscores that President Obama can serve U.S. strategic and economic interests by immediately approving every request to build a liquefied natural gas export terminal. Not every one will be built but the market will quickly decide which make economic sense. With Europe begging and Republicans in Congress encouraging, what is the White House waiting for?