America May Not Be Fast Enough to Solve Europe’s Gas Problem

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

In light of the gas crisis in Europe and Ukraine — the result of political tensions that rose after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula — the U.S. and foreign bodies have been desperately looking for a way to combat the shortage and cut back on reliance to Russia’s gas industry. One solution often named has been greater exports from U.S. gas production, with opponents arguing that an increase in exports to Europe would cause greater harm to the environment and/or raise gas prices at home. Now, a new argument has cropped up — that of timelines and capability. While the Obama administration and Congress are looking at pushing more of the gas supply into exports, the timing, and the amount of gas needed, are under question.

Expanding U.S. LNG exports is an opportunity to combat Russian influence and power, and we have an energy diplomacy responsibility to act quickly,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.). “The Department of Energy’s approval process for LNG exports is unnecessarily putting our allies at the mercy of Vladimir Putin. Now is the time to send the signal to our global allies that U.S. natural gas will be an available and viable alternative to their energy needs,” he said early last month.

However, not everyone agrees that this is viable possibility. “This is not an immediate-term solution. It’s not even an intermediate-term solution,” said Paul Bledsoe, senior climate and energy fellow at the German Marshall Fund, to The New York Times. The issue lies in plant production rates. For example, the Cheniere plant in Louisiana is the only one, at present, to have gained the regulatory approvals necessary for liquefied natural gas exportation — according to The New York Times. Half of its gas is already promised to India and South Korea, and the rest is headed to Britain and Spain, who will then sell it where they will. What’s more, even in 2017, when the plant will have increased output substantially, it will only be able to produce 16.6 percent of what Russia sends daily to Europe.

Of course, hope rests with a more expansive production plan, but the other facilities aren’t simply able to change rules and then produce as demanded. “L.N.G. exports are not about snapping your fingers and making them happen. These are large business development projects that take several years of construction and several years of business development and engineering design,” said Marvin E. Odum, the president of Shell Oil, to The New York Times.

Unfortunately, Russia has been attempting to increase gas prices at an exorbitant rate, leading Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to call it “economic aggression,” according to the BBC. The state-run gas company in Russia, Gazprom, has increased gas prices by 81 percent, up to $485.50 from $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters. Yatsenyuk insists that the price is political pressure meant to “seize Ukraine through economic aggression,” after it was “unable to seize Ukraine by means of military aggression.”

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS