“We understand that European gas inventories are well-above normal levels, due to a milder than usual winter, and could replace a loss of Russian exports for several months, if necessary,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “Naturally, we take the energy security of our friends very seriously.”
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saw an opening for U.S. gas producers. He called on Obama to fast-track approval of U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, claiming the Energy Department has a slow approval process that amounts to a de facto ban on American natural gas exports.
The Energy Department has given final approval to one of about two dozen proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals in the past two years. Five other projects have received conditional backing.
However, even if the Energy Department approved all the pending permits from companies seeking to export natural gas, fuel could not begin flowing overseas for several years. A project in Sabine Pass, La., is tentatively scheduled to open in late 2015, but most others are not expected to begin operations until 2017 or later.
Ariel Cohen, an expert on Russian and Eurasian affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said he doesn’t know whether the Europeans would be willing to impose tough sanctions, particularly against Russia’s banking and financial systems. Even if the Europeans don’t, the U.S. needs to take the lead or risk allowing Russia to alter current world order, he said.
“Either we take a lead or the international system goes back to the chaos and high-risk levels that existed before World War I and between World War I and World War II,” he said. “This is very serious. I cannot emphasize that enough. People who talk about ‘Oh, we won’t get cheap gas from Russia’ or ‘The Russians will get angry’ — they do not look at it beyond the current geopolitical and international order.”