White House signals support for gas exports

The Obama administration on Wednesday signaled support for increased exports of natural gas in a joint statement issued with the European Union.

Noting the conflict in Ukraine, the statement strongly suggested increased sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) is needed to diversify Europe's energy supplies and weaken the influence of Russia.

"The situation in Ukraine proves the need to reinforce energy security in Europe and we are considering new collaborative efforts to achieve this goal," the joint statement said.

"We welcome the prospect of U.S. LNG exports in the future since additional global supplies will benefit Europe and other strategic partners."

The joint EU-U.S. statement was released after President Obama met with European officials in Brussels.

Republicans in Congress are pressing Obama to accelerate the Energy Department's approval process for natural gas export facilities.

Pressure is also coming from European countries that are now reliant on Russian President Vladimir Putin for the majority of their gas supplies. Officials from the Eastern European countries of Lithuania and Hungary visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to make the case for gas exports, claiming a move by the president to accelerate approvals would send a signal to Putin.

In the joint statement, the EU and U.S. said they agreed on the need to take action to bolster Europe's energy security.

"We agree on the importance of redoubling transatlantic efforts to support European energy security to further diversify energy sources and suppliers and to allow for reverse natural gas flows to Ukraine from its EU neighbors," the statement said.