Republicans: Ukraine Crisis Builds Case for Natural Gas Exports, Keystone

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A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker arrives at a gas storage station at Sodegaura city in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo on April 6, 2009 for the first shipment of LNG from Sakhalin-2 natural gas development project in Sakhalin, Russia. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Ben Geman
March 3, 2014, 2:32 p.m.

Crises bring new at­ten­tion to Wash­ing­ton’s thorn­i­est policy battles, but they rarely change the minds of the people fight­ing them.

En­ergy policy is no ex­cep­tion: House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton said Monday that Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Ukraine demon­strate why the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion should ac­cel­er­ate ap­prov­al of U.S. nat­ur­al-gas ex­port pro­pos­als.

Up­ton touted the idea that U.S. ex­ports can help curb European al­lies’ re­li­ance on Rus­si­an nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports.

“Ex­pand­ing U.S. [li­que­fied nat­ur­al gas] ex­ports is an op­por­tun­ity to com­bat Rus­si­an in­flu­ence and power, and we have an en­ergy dip­lomacy re­spons­ib­il­ity to act quickly. The De­part­ment of En­ergy’s ap­prov­al pro­cess for LNG ex­ports is un­ne­ces­sar­ily put­ting our al­lies at the mercy of Vladi­mir Putin,” Up­ton, a Michigan Re­pub­lic­an, said in a state­ment Monday even­ing.

Com­mit­tee Re­pub­lic­ans, who want the En­ergy De­part­ment to act faster on a back­log of ex­port ap­plic­a­tions, re­leased a re­port in early Feb­ru­ary tout­ing the abil­ity of U.S. gas ex­ports to ease Rus­si­an in­flu­ence on East­ern and Cent­ral European na­tions.

Rus­sia sup­plies roughly one-fourth of Europe’s nat­ur­al gas, and a sig­ni­fic­ant amount is piped through Ukraine.

Up­ton said his pan­el would “con­tin­ue to ad­vance le­gis­la­tion and de­vel­op new pro­pos­als that al­low mar­ket forces and tech­no­logy to help ex­pand East­ern Europe’s ac­cess to af­ford­able en­ergy bey­ond Rus­sia.”

The En­ergy De­part­ment in mid-Feb­ru­ary gave its sixth ap­prov­al for LNG ex­ports since 2011 to na­tions that don’t have a form­al free-trade deal with the U.S., but ex­port back­ers want faster vet­ting of ap­plic­a­tions to send gas abroad.

Across Cap­it­ol Hill, Sen. John Ho­even, R-N.D., used a wide-ran­ging state­ment on the Ukrain­i­an crisis to of­fer fresh calls for ap­prov­al of the Key­stone XL oil pipeline, call­ing it part of an en­ergy strategy that can curb Rus­si­an in­flu­ence.

Ho­even, whose state’s oil pro­duc­tion is boom­ing, said the U.S. pro­duc­tion surge can help re­duce glob­al en­ergy prices and thereby weak­en Rus­sia, which de­pends heav­ily on oil and gas rev­en­ues.

“The United States needs to re­duce our re­li­ance on over­seas en­ergy,” Ho­even said in a state­ment. “That means de­vel­op­ing a do­mest­ic en­ergy plan, like the one we forged in North Dakota, that ag­gress­ively de­vel­ops our do­mest­ic en­ergy re­sources and work­ing with friends and al­lies like Canada to pro­duce more en­ergy than we use. It also means build­ing more en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture like the Key­stone XL pipeline without delay.”

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