The United States appears to be rethinking its aversion to natural gas exports so it could help meet Ukraine’s energy needs and weaken Ukraine’s dependency on Russia for its gas supply.
The top U.S. energy official, Ernest Moniz, said at an energy conference this week that he “would certainly welcome” discussions with congressional leaders about easing the country’s current natural gas export restrictions that limit sales to countries that are not free trade partners.
He said the conflict in Ukraine, where Russian troops are occupying the country’s Crimean peninsula, is “obviously a very, very serious and important situation” that merits considering whether energy exports should play a role in U.S. foreign policy.
For decades, the U.S. has been a large energy importer. In recent years, however, with the advance of hydraulic fracturing energy extraction, the U.S. has increasingly headed toward energy independence. By some accounts, the U.S. could surpass Russia this year as the world’s largest natural gas producer and by next year Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil producer.
House Speaker John Boehner, the leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, said Obama could strengthen the U.S. standing in Ukraine by approving the gas exports.
“If the president wanted to strengthen his hand, and help protect our allies in the region, he’d pick up his phone and use his pen and have the Energy Department approve these applications for these [natural gas] exports,” he said.