The Ukrainian crisis violently reminded Europeans how dependent they are on Russia for their energy supply. While they threaten to take heavy sanctions against Moscow if Vladimir Putin decides to invade Ukraine, they know that there is an urgent need to loosen the noose of Russian gas. The United States have understood this well and say they are ready to help the Old Continent in this case.
“The United States and the EU [Union européenne] work jointly to ensure a continuous, sufficient and timely supply of natural gas to the EU from various sources across the planet to avoid supply shocks, including those that could result from a new Russian invasion of Ukraine” , declared, on Friday 28 January, in a joint statement, US President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
For three weeks, discussions between the White House and Brussels have intensified, in order to prepare for the worst-case scenario which would see Moscow cut off the gas tap to Europeans, against a backdrop of soaring energy prices. Ditte Juul-Jorgensen, head of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, was in Washington a few days ago.
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
The United States are major producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is transported by sea before being regasified in terminals, and can therefore easily replace conventional gas, which is transported in gas pipelines and offers no flexibility. They started increasing their deliveries to Europeans – “over the past three weeks, between 70 and 80 American LNG cargo ships have been rerouted to Europe”, says the Commission – but they need to be able to move up a gear.
Ursula von der Leyen and Joe Biden are also increasing contacts with other LNG producers, whether in the Gulf countries, Egypt or Algeria, so that they redirect part of their production to the Old Continent. The president of the community executive thus spoke on January 27 with the Emir of Qatar, who will be received by the American president on January 31.
But global LNG production is only slightly expandable and it is already, for the most part, pre-sold. Clearly, if the Europeans want to recover part of it, the countries that bought it – such as Japan, China or even Korea – must renounce, at least temporarily, certain deliveries. It is therefore a vast bargaining between governments around the world that has begun and will continue in the coming days. With the sights set on February 7, the date on which a US-Europe summit on energy security is to be held in Washington.
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