Natural gas just one part of European energy security, State official says


Amos Hochstein, who heads the State Department’s energy diplomacy efforts, told a House panel Wednesday that his department has been working for years to provide energy security for Europe, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the United States are only part of the equation.

“While critically important, U.S. energy resources, including LNG exports, are just one tool among many that we can and are utilizing to address the energy security challenges in Europe and elsewhere,” Hochstein told a House Oversight subcommittee.

Hochstein’s testimony was part of a hearing the panel held about the government’s policies concerning LNG exports. The Department of Energy must review all applications to ship LNG to countries with which the United States does not have a free-trade agreement.

Republicans and some Democrats want to expedite that process, especially in recent months, as Russia has been increasingly aggressive toward its neighbors and annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine.

“The crisis led many to argue that accelerated approval of LNG exports is the magical solution to provide energy security to our European allies and partners,” Hochstein said.

The State Department’s efforts to increase energy security among U.S. allies kicked into high gear in 2009. That year, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine and much of Europe.

“The U.S. has been working closing with the EU to prevent a repeat of the 2009 crisis,” he said.

Efforts by the United States and the European Union in the years since that crisis have significantly improved energy security, Hochstein said.

The steps have included modifying natural gas pipelines so that they can be reversed, to bring gas into and through Europe from places other than Russia. Europe changed its regulatory framework around energy to enable a wide range of infrastructure changes.

“These are steps that could not have happened had we not learned the lessons from 2009 and spent the last four to five years working with our EU partners to make those changes available and capable,” Hochstein said.

State is now working to encourage Eastern European countries to build terminals to import LNG, so that the countries can actually receive gas when U.S. exports begin, which could be as early as next year.