The US and EU announced a partnership to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy that will increase shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe by 15 billion cubic metres this year.
“Today we’ve agreed on a joint gameplan toward” reducing European reliance on Russian gas, US President Joe Biden said at a joint press conference with Ursula von der Leyen.
“This will replace the LNG supply we currently receive from Russia, and looking ahead, the United States and Europe will ensure stable demand and supply for an additional at least 50 billion cubic metres of US LNG until 2030,” European Commission President von der Leyen added, saying that amount would replace one-third of Russian gas imports.
“We are right on track now to diversify away from Russian gas,” she said, emphasising that the EU would invest in other energy sources such as renewables as well.
Russian energy is a key source of income and political leverage for Moscow with almost 40% of the European Union’s natural gas comes from Russia to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry.
“I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe but it’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing,” Biden said.
The US and EU announcement came after NATO, the G7 and European Union all held summits on Thursday.
Biden travelled to Brussels for the meetings and will head to Rzeszów in Poland later on Friday before travelling to Warsaw where he will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Getting more liquefied natural gas to Europe could be difficult, even though the US has been dramatically increasing its exports in recent years.
Many export facilities are already operating at capacity, and most new terminals are still only in the planning stages.
Most US shipments already go to Europe, according to the Centre for Liquefied Natural Gas, an industry lobbying group. Although much of the supply is already contracted out to buyers, there are still opportunities to shift its destination.
“The US is in a unique position because it has flexible LNG that can be rerouted to Europe or to Asia, depending on who’s willing to pay that price,” said Emily McClain, gas markets analyst at Rystad.
Even if the US can ship more gas to Europe, the continent may struggle to receive it. Import terminals are located in coastal areas, where there are fewer pipeline connections for distributing it.
Biden said that the European Commission will work to build more infrastructure and increase the efficiency of gas.
This in turn has been criticised by human rights organisation Global Witness.
“Today’s agreement puts the EU and the US on a misguided and dangerous path by fast-tracking new infrastructure to import fossil gas into Europe. Europe already has enough capacity to import the amount of gas the US intends to supply, and building new import terminals would mean locking in fossil gas imports for years to come, long after the EU needs to quit this climate-wrecking fuel for good,” Murray Worthy, gas campaign leader at Global Witness, said in a statement.
“Doubling down on gas is not the solution, whether it comes from Russia or the US. This announcement does not and must not be used to justify more fossil fuel projects in the US. New gas export terminals would take too long to build to help Europe now, would lead to huge climate-wrecking emissions and only help the fossil fuel industry.
“Instead of lining the pockets of American fracking companies, Europe should focus its energy investments on lasting solutions such as improving building insulation, heat pumps and renewable energy sources. More investment and reliance on fossil fuels is music to the ears of despots and warmongers all over the world who recognise this is an energy system that benefits them. If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether,” he added.