Friday’s announcement that the United States would help Europe find alternative sources for the 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) it imports from Russia every year raised hopes that the region could reduce its dependence on Russia for energy – but it does nothing to reduce the vastly larger amount of pipeline Europe is buying from Moscow.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and US President Joe Biden announced the deal during a joint appearance. Biden is in Europe for a series of meetings with other leaders to coordinate new responses to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In prepared remarks, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has used Russia’s energy resources to coerce and manipulate its neighbors.” He said reduced European demand for Russian gas would increase pressure on Russia to stop the war.
He noted that the United States had already banned all Russian energy imports, saying “the American people would not participate in financing Putin’s brutal and unjustified war against the Ukrainian people.”
“The transatlantic partnership is stronger and more united than ever,” said von der Leyen. “And we are determined to stand against Russia’s brutal war. This war will be a strategic failure for Putin.”
A colossal task
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, European countries reassessed their energy dependence on Russia. Most notable was Germany’s decision to scrap the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would have doubled the flow of Russian gas directly to Europe under the Baltic Sea.
Detaching Europe completely from Russian energy supplies, however, will be extremely difficult.
While the 15 billion cubic meters (15 billion m3) of LNG that the United States has pledged to help Europe find would replace virtually all LNG from Russia, European countries are buying an additional 150 billion m3 of Russian natural gas which is delivered via pipeline.
LNG and pipeline are the same product in different forms. LNG is compressed into a liquid for storage and transport and is “regasified” for use.
Europe “at full capacity” for LNG
Experts said that while the new LNG sources could replace existing Russian LNG imports, they would not be able to reduce the region’s dependence on the pipeline.
“Europe has limited import capacity and doesn’t have any additional infrastructure that will come online,” Charlie Riedl, executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, told VOA. “The infrastructure that is currently operational is essentially operating at full capacity right now, and I expect it to be operating at full capacity for the remainder of this year.”
Riedl said that as 2022 approaches, the amount of gas stored by European countries is well below recent averages, making the region particularly vulnerable to potential supply disruptions.
In the longer term, Europe will be able to increase its LNG import capacity, and the United States will in turn be able to increase the amount of LNG it produces and ships to Europe. On Friday, the Biden administration said it would commit to “maintaining a supportive regulatory environment” regarding “any additional LNG export capacity that is needed to meet this emergency energy security goal.”
The American energy industry
Representatives of the US energy industry seemed pleased with the announcement.
In a statement sent to VOA, American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Mike Sommers said, “We stand ready to work with the administration to follow up on this announcement with meaningful policy actions to support global energy security, including by further addressing the backlog of LNG permits, reforming the licensing process and promoting greater pipeline infrastructure.”
He said the industry has already begun the process of supplying Europe with more US-sourced fuel.
“Over the past few months, US producers have dramatically increased LNG shipments to our allies, making Europe the number one destination for US LNG exports,” Sommers said. “With effective policies on both sides of the Atlantic, we could do even more to support Europe’s long-term energy security and reduce its dependence on Russian energy.”
Reconcile with the climate strategy
The creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure may seem difficult to reconcile with the promises of the European Union and the United States to move towards a carbon-neutral future.
However, Biden and von der Leyen on Friday reiterated their commitment to climate commitments and said new LNG facilities will be built in a way that will allow them to be converted for a transition to hydrogen-based energy. .
In a statement, the White House said: “The United States and the European Commission will undertake efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of all new LNG infrastructure and associated pipelines, including by using energy to power on-site operations, reducing methane leaks and building clean, renewable hydrogen-ready infrastructure.”
The United States and the European Commission have also indicated that Europe, with the help of the United States, will take further steps to reduce dependence on Russian gas, including reducing demand by bringing more resources online. renewable energy.