EVEN as talk escalates on lifting a ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, discussion of a major boost to natural gas exports is ramping up following tensions in the Ukraine.
Russia’s heavy-handed manner toward the Ukraine is making political leaders in Europe nervous. They know that what Vladimir Putin is doing is wrong and needs to be challenged. But they also depend in part on Russia’s vast energy supplies.
Thus the stage is set for turning westward for reliable energy supplies from a friendlier and more stable part of the world: North America. This is great news for Oklahoma energy producers — although less so for consumers. A slump in natural gas prices, abated of late by severe winter weather, could be reversed with rising demand from Europe.
Some European countries are heavily dependent on Russia for natural gas supplies. Six nations are entirely dependent on Russia, meeting 100 percent of demand with Russian gas.
A January report in National Journal said some European leaders are practically begging the Obama administration to open the spigot on U.S. natural gas exports. Current law significantly restricts U.S. gas companies from exporting to countries that aren’t free-trade partners with America. This means Europe can’t avail itself of abundant U.S. gas supplies.
Environmental resistance has slowed development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities at U.S. ports. LNG is gas that’s been converted to liquid form to make it easier to store and transport.
“We’ve had so many country representatives come into the office, pleading with us to step up our efforts to export LNG,” U.S. Rep. Ed Whitefield, a Kentucky Republican, told National Journal. “The reason why is because the Russians have them over the barrel and they’re able to extract really high prices from them.”
A Greek representative in the European Union Parliament said “cheap energy” is preferable to financial aid to her country’s fiscally challenged government.