By Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) - 07/17/13 10:29 PM EDT
The United States should help our European allies to diversify their energy sources, specifically natural gas, easing their dependence on unfriendly or unstable regions and regimes, from Russia to North Africa and the Middle East.
Increasing Europe’s energy security will strengthen U.S. security partnerships, bolster our national security, help our economy and create job opportunities here at home.
Make no mistake: Unstable energy supplies in Europe threaten America’s economic security and national security.
Europe relies on Russia’s monopoly, Gazprom, for about one-third of its natural gas needs. However, Russia has demonstrated it will use its resource exports to influence other countries, and in recent years, it has cutoff natural gas supplies to parts of Europe.
Relying on North Africa and the Middle East can be even riskier. Turkey depends on Iran for 20 percent of its natural gas imports, and early this year, Islamist militants attacked a natural gas facility in Algeria, which is the third-largest exporter of natural gas to Europe.
Imagine what it will mean when, during an international crisis sometime in the future, the nations of Europe will have less reason to fear for their energy supplies if they defy the rulers of Russia, Iran or other hostile or shaky foreign governments.
Fortunately, Europe’s energy security is being boosted by recent developments in the central Asian country of Azerbaijan and here in America.
In Azerbaijan, the developers of a major Caspian gas field have decided upon a route for the western section of the pipeline to Europe, selecting the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will run through Turkey, Greece and Albania to Italy. When the pipeline is completed, natural gas from the Shah Deniz field, one of the world’s largest, located only 40 miles off the coast of Azerbaijan, will become available to European consumers.
This is good news because Azerbaijan is a reliable trading partner and ally for Europe and the U.S.
Azerbaijan was the first country in the region to open energy resources in the Caspian Sea to American companies and is the home to 7 billion barrels of oil reserves and 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
Because Azerbaijan is an important partner on energy, economics and national security, I have authored a bipartisan Congressional resolution declaring that it is in America’s national interest to work with the governments of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia and their associates to bring additional oil and gas supplies to European markets.
Meanwhile, U.S. production of natural gas, particularly shale gas, has increased dramatically. The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, with almost a 100-year supply, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As a result of increased production, prices have fallen, making U.S. natural gas competitive in the global marketplace and creating new opportunities to export gas and create American jobs. A recent report commissioned by the Energy Department found that increasing natural gas exports would not only reduce our trade deficit and create jobs for American workers but also help our allies diversify their energy resources.
The surplus of U.S. natural gas has already had an impact on global markets. Supplies previously destined for the U.S., but no longer needed as a result of increased production, were diverted to other markets. This increase in global supply has helped several European countries successfully renegotiate their long-term contracts with Gazprom.
Under current law, companies seeking to export U.S. natural gas to non-Free Trade Agreement countries are subject to a lengthy regulatory process. Over the last several years, only two such applications have been approved, and there are still 20 pending before the Department of Energy. We need to tear down these regulatory barriers that make it more difficult for American companies to sell natural gas overseas.
That is why I have authored bipartisan and bicameral legislation, the Expedited LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] for American Allies Act, to expedite the natural gas export license process for NATO countries and Japan. The measure also allows natural gas exports to other countries if the secretary of State, in consultation with the secretary of Defense, determines that it would be in our national security interests.
The Southern Gas Corridor and increased exports of U.S. natural gas can help our allies diversify their energy resources and bolster our strategic partnerships. It’s time to strengthen these ties for the sake of America’s national security, America’s allies and America’s workers.
Turner has represented Ohio’s 10th congressional district in the House of Representatives since 2003. He sits on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chairs the Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, and is chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.