Obama Hints at European Fracking Following Russia Sanctions

He also made the case for importing more U.S. gas in a conference with the European Union’s two top leaders.

National Journal
Jack Fitzpatrick
See more stories about...
Jack Fitzpatrick
March 26, 2014, 8:29 a.m.

BRUS­SELS — Pres­id­ent Obama didn’t dir­ectly call Wed­nes­day for Europe to start frack­ing for shale gas, but he strongly sug­ges­ted that coun­tries there di­ver­si­fy their en­ergy sources as the European Uni­on hits Rus­sia with sanc­tions over its an­nex­a­tion of Crimea.

Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sion in Crimea has high­lighted the E.U.’s de­pend­ence on gas that travels through pipelines in Ukraine. Isol­at­ing Rus­sia eco­nom­ic­ally would be less pain­ful for Europe if it did not de­pend so heav­ily on that gas, Obama said at a press con­fer­ence with European Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Her­man Van Rompuy and European Com­mis­sion Pres­id­ent Jose Manuel Bar­roso.

“This en­tire event has poin­ted to, I think, for Europe, how it needs to di­ver­si­fy its en­ergy sources,” Obama said.

De­clin­ing to spe­cific­ally en­dorse frack­ing, Obama said the U.S. has been “blessed by some in­cred­ible re­sources” re­cently.

Bar­roso, however, made clear his sup­port for frack­ing, say­ing it was a “bless­ing” for coun­tries that im­port gas from the U.S. rather than Rus­sia.

“European coun­tries will be­come less de­pend­ent on en­ergy com­ing from, let’s say, dif­fi­cult spots,” he said.

The state­ment also hin­ted at ne­go­ti­ations on the free-trade Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Pro­gram. Pres­id­ent Obama sug­ges­ted that U.S. li­que­fied gas ex­ports to the E.U. could in­crease de­pend­ing on the con­tents of the deal, which could re­duce tar­iffs and reg­u­la­tions in trade between the U.S. and E.U.

Brit­ish Prime Min­is­ter Dav­id Camer­on has also called for frack­ing in Europe since the crisis in Crimea began. On Tues­day, he said Rus­sia’s in­va­sion was a “wake-up call” for coun­tries re­ly­ing on Rus­sia gas, Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

Obama walked a fine line on en­vir­on­ment­al is­sues in the press con­fer­ence, both pro­mot­ing the U.S.’s gas ex­ports and as­sur­ing Europeans that the United States would not push for more-lax European laws on en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion as part of the free-trade deal. He ad­dressed European con­cerns that the U.S. would try to re­duce bar­ri­ers to trade by ask­ing for weakened en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions, say­ing he has fought for en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tions dur­ing his “en­tire polit­ic­al ca­reer.”

But Obama also subtly cri­ti­cized the E.U. for heav­ily fa­vor­ing en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tion over en­ergy pro­duc­tion, say­ing the U.S. had made tough choices that the E.U. now faces.

“The truth of the mat­ter is, just as there’s no easy, free, simple way to de­fend ourselves, there’s no per­fect, free, ideal, cheap en­ergy sources,” he said. “Every pos­sible en­ergy source has some in­con­veni­ences or down­sides. And I think Europe is go­ing to have to ex­am­ine, in light of what’s happened, their en­ergy policies to find, are there ad­di­tion­al ways that they can di­ver­si­fy and ac­cel­er­ate en­ergy in­de­pend­ence.”

Neither Obama, Bar­roso, nor Van Rompuy ad­dressed wheth­er the U.S. and E.U. see Crimea as a lost cause, in­stead fo­cus­ing on the pos­sib­il­ity of ad­di­tion­al sanc­tions if Rus­sia be­comes ag­gress­ive to­ward any oth­er parts of Ukraine. Obama, who was at­tend­ing the E.U. sum­mit for the first time as pres­id­ent, em­phas­ized the U.S.’s co­ordin­a­tion with the E.U. on sanc­tions.

Obama also de­clined to ad­dress wor­ries in Europe over U.S. spy­ing pro­grams. Bar­roso said he and Van Rompuy have “con­cerns, shared widely by cit­izens in E.U. mem­ber states,” about U.S. sur­veil­lance, but that they had dis­cussed the is­sue with Obama earli­er in the day and are con­fid­ent about Obama’s pro­pos­als for NSA re­forms — in­clud­ing end­ing the agency’s mass col­lec­tion of phone data.

What We're Following See More »
CNN/ORC
Clinton Ahead by 13 in Early Going
10 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"As Donald Trump captures the mantle of presumptive Republican nominee, a new poll finds he begins his general election campaign well behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. The new CNN/ORC Poll, completed ahead of Trump's victory last night, found Clinton leads 54% to 41%, a 13-point edge over the New York businessman, her largest lead since last July. Clinton is also more trusted than Trump on many issues voters rank as critically important, with one big exception. By a 50% to 45% margin, voters say Trump would do a better job handling the economy than Clinton would."

Source:
ACCEPT OR RESIST?
Wall Street Journal, Kristol Reflect Schism on the Right
18 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal sets out to relieve conservatives of the temptation to back a third-party candidate over Donald Trump. "The thought is more tempting this year than most, but it’s still hard to see how this would accomplish more than electing Hillary Clinton and muddling the message from a Trump defeat. ... The usual presidential result is that the party that splinters hands the election to the other, more united party." But in the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol is having none of it: "Serious people, including serious conservatives, cannot acquiesce in Donald Trump as their candidate. ... Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly."

NOT WELL FOR THE GOP
The Trump Triumph: How’s It Playing?
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
  • Nate Cohn, New York Times: "There have been 10-point shifts over the general election season before, even if it’s uncommon. But there isn’t much of a precedent for huge swings in races with candidates as well known as Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. A majority of Americans may not like her, but they say they’re scared of him."
  • Roger Simon, PJ Media: "He is particularly fortunate that his opposition, Hillary Clinton, besides still being under threat of indictment and still not having defeated Bernie Sanders (go figure), is a truly uninspiring, almost soporific, figure. ... She's not a star. Trump is. All attention will be on him in the general election. The primaries have shown us what an advantage that is. What that means for American politics may not all be good, but it's true."
  • The editors, The Washington Examiner: "At the very least, Trump owes it to the country he boasts he will 'make great again' to try to demonstrate some seriousness about the office he seeks. He owes this even to those who will never consider voting for him. He can start by swearing off grand displays of aggressive and apparently deliberate ignorance. This is not too much to ask."
FOLLOWS UNITEDHEALTH
Humana Will Also Exit Obamacare Exchanges
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

Humana announced it plans to "exit certain statewide individual markets and products 'both on and off [Obamacare] exchange,' the insurer said in its financial results released Monday." The company also said price hikes may be forthcoming, "commensurate with anticipated levels of risk by state." Its individual-market enrollment was down 21% in the first quarter from a year ago.

Source:
‘PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE’
Priebus Asks Party to Unite Behind Trump
13 hours ago
THE LATEST
×