BRUSSELS — The United States promised Tuesday to keep sending large supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to EU ports this year as the Continent aims to continue weaning itself off Russian energy supplies.
“Over the past year, the United States and Europe have thrown our energy security cooperation into even higher gear,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in the EU capital for a summit with his EU counterpart Josep Borrell.
The bloc last year imported 56 billion cubic meters (bcm) of U.S. LNG, more than double the previous year’s level. The U.S. pledged that it will send “at least 50 bcm” to Europe this year.
American LNG was crucial in staving off a winter energy emergency as Russia throttled its natural gas deliveries. Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia accounted for over 40 percent of the EU’s gas demand, but that’s now fallen to about 12 percent.
The EU has seen gas prices steadily drop thanks to increased non-Russian supplies, a warmer-than-expected winter and demand reduction. The challenge now is to pump the bloc’s gas storages full before the start of the next winter heating season. U.S. LNG is “necessary given the challenging supply situation and the need to ensure storage filling for the next winter 2023-24,” the White House said.
That message comes as global competition in the LNG market is likely to get fiercer, linked to China’s reviving economy.
Both EU and U.S. officials made clear that there’s no going back to the old reliance on Russia.
“I believe this is not a temporary situation, but marks a structural change in Europe’s energy outlook and trade orientation,” said Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.
Tuesday’s meeting was the 10th EU-U.S. Energy Council — a yearly forum aimed at coordinating stances on strategic issues ranging from energy security to shifting to cleaner forms of energy and keeping the Paris Agreement alive.
It’s the first council since Russia attacked Ukraine.
“U.S.-EU relations have never been stronger or more important for advancing our shared interests,” Blinken said, adding that “after more than a year of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the stakes for our partnership could not be higher for the transatlantic relationship and Ukraine itself.”
While the two sides have coordinated on gas shipments and on imposing a price cap on Russia’s oil exports, there have been stresses in recent months thanks to the subsidy-heavy U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. The $369 billion legislation has spooked EU companies and governments, worried about businesses decamping for North America.
In an effort to soothe tensions, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden last month launched a Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue and a deal on critical raw materials to ensure supplies of the materials used in green transition tech ranging from wind turbines to electric car batteries.
The deal, which is still under negotiation, was also a topic of Tuesday’s discussions. It would allow minerals sourced or refined in EU countries to enter the U.S. as if they were produced domestically or in a country that has a free-trade agreement with Washington.