By CHRIS MEGERIAN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ – Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) – The United States and the European Union on Friday announced a new partnership to reduce the continent’s dependence on Russian energy, the start of a year-long initiative to further isolate Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.
As part of the plan, the US and other nations will increase liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by 15 billion cubic meters this year, the White House said. Larger shipments would also be delivered in the future.
At the same time, they will seek to keep their climate goals on track by providing clean energy to gas infrastructure and reducing methane leaks that can exacerbate global warming.
Though the initiative will likely require new facilities to import liquefied natural gas, the White House said the partnership also aims to reduce long-term dependency on fossil fuels through energy efficiency and alternative energy sources.
US President Joe Biden was scheduled to discuss the issue with Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union’s executive branch, before leaving for Poland, the final leg of his four-day trip.
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Earlier this week, von der Leyen said, “We are seeking a commitment to additional supplies for the next two winters.” And Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, recently told reporters that the government wants to “pump” gas to Europe quickly.
Russian energy is an important source of income and a political lever for Moscow. Almost 40% of the European Union’s natural gas comes from Russia to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry.
After leaving Brussels, Biden travels to Rzeszów, Poland, where US troops are stationed about an hour’s drive from the Ukrainian border. He will be briefed on humanitarian aid to the refugees pouring out of Ukraine and those still suffering in the country. He will also meet with US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division serving alongside Polish troops.
Biden is then expected to travel to Warsaw on Saturday for talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Before returning to Washington, the White House said, Biden will address “the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, to hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and to defend a future built on… based on democratic principles. ”
While in Brussels, Biden attended a trio of summits hosted by NATO, the Group of Seven and the European Union on Thursday. The extraordinary series of meetings reflects heightened concerns over the war in Ukraine, which has entered its second month.
Although Ukraine has resisted the Russian invasion much more successfully than initially expected, the conflict has turned into a grueling and bloody affair, with thousands of casualties on both sides and millions of refugees fleeing the country.
Western leaders are also concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use chemical or even nuclear weapons to restart the war.
Getting more liquefied natural gas to Europe could be difficult, even though the US has dramatically increased its exports in recent years. Many export facilities are already operating at capacity and most new terminals are still in the planning phase.
Most U.S. shipments are already going to Europe, according to the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, an industry lobby group. Although much of the supply has already been given to buyers, there are still opportunities to shift its destination.
“The US is in a unique position because they have flexible LNG that can be diverted to Europe or Asia, depending on who is willing to pay that price,” said Emily McClain, Rystad’s gas market analyst.
Even if the US can ship more gas to Europe, the continent could struggle to receive it. Import terminals are located in coastal areas where there are fewer pipeline connections for distribution.
Even if all plants in Europe were working at full capacity, the gas volume would probably only be about two-thirds of what Russia supplies through pipelines.
Bussewitz reported from New York.
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