US should protect NATO against Moscow with gas

US should protect NATO against Moscow with gas

WASHINGTON - The Associated Press
US should protect NATO against Moscow with gas

An employee twists a valve at a as-distributing station after it was opened near the village of Atolino in Minsk. REUTERS photo

The Obama administration should do more to help NATO allies in Europe ease dangerous dependence on Russia’s gas monopolies, a senior Republican lawmaker urged yesterday, proposing a new law that he said would improve energy security in a critical region.

Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is advocating legislation that would remove restrictions on U.S. gas exports for all NATO countries. He said the possibility of U.S. exports could remove leverage Russia could exert on vulnerable allies by threatening to cut off gas supplies.

In the report, Lugar argues that a boom in U.S. natural gas production and progress on pipelines from Central Asia to Europe have created opportunities to dramatically diversify supplies to NATO allies who rely on Russian gas.

New extraction techniques have allowed the U.S. to tap huge deposits that were previously hard to reach. Lugar said the U.S. should allow import terminals to be retrofitted to boost export capacity for liquefied natural gas that could be shipped to allies.

Two routes
Lugar’s staff argues that without U.S. and European efforts, some allies could remain vulnerable because it will be hard to distribute the new resources to their markets. It is still not yet clear what path that gas will take to Europe. There are two proposed routes from Turkey.

One, called the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, would go through Greece and Albania and under the Adriatic to Italy. Lugar said the second choice, called Nabucco West, would better serve U.S. interests. He urged the administration to endorse that route because it would pass through some of the allied countries that are most dependent on Russia for gas.

That pipeline would go through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on the way to a distribution hub in Austria. U.S. diplomats should also push Azerbaijan to link up with the huge gas reserves of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to significantly boost possible capacity to Europe, according to the report, which argues that despite efforts to isolate Iran, the U.S. should maintain an exemption from sanctions for an international consortium developing gas fields in Azerbaijan that includes a small stake for the National Iranian Oil Company.