The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
U.S. President Barack Obama comments to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before meeting with Israel U.S. President Barack Obama comments to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 3, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  

Stronger domestic leadership on natural gas means stronger foreign policy

Photo of Rep. Bill Johnson
Rep. Bill Johnson
Congressman, Ohio 6th District

President Obama has a historic opportunity to push back against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula. If the President was serious when he warned Putin that there would be “costs” for invading, then he could quickly expand American influence in Eastern Europe, and send a clear message to Putin about what those “costs” will be, all without deploying a single American troop to the region.

How? By immediately increasing the number of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits the administration approves. It’s time for America to hit Russia where it hurts: in their wallet. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Russia holds the largest natural gas reserves in the world, is the second largest producer of dry natural gas, and third largest liquid fuels producer. Because of these vast resources, much of Europe depends on Russia for natural gas. Ukraine is particularly dependent.

Russia has never been shy about using its energy clout to achieve political ends – like shutting off Ukraine’s natural gas supply in winter months when it does something not to Putin’s liking. In fact, Russia’s entire economy depends heavily on the artificial escalation of the world price for natural gas, because it holds a monopoly on the resource. America’s entry into the global natural gas export market would have serious impacts on Russia’s economy, and would alter current geopolitical relationships.

For decades, America was in no position to export natural gas. But over the last few years, we have discovered some of the largest natural gas deposits anywhere in the world, right under our feet in places like North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and in the congressional district I represent – Eastern Ohio. These newly-available gas reserves, thought by most to be an American domestic resource, can also serve as a foreign policy advantage.

Because of the recent technological breakthrough of deep, horizontal, hydraulic fracturing, America is able to produce large quantities of natural gas and oil like never before. Some experts have estimated that because of the rapid development of this new technology, Ohio alone could have more accessible natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia. Let that sink in for a second, and think of the resources we’ve been blessed with, and the potential they create — jobs for the American people, and energy independence from the Middle East, while helping our allies around the world advance freedom and democracy. And all of it can be had without deploying our armed forces.

As someone who spent more than 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, you might think that military action would be my first instinct in a world crisis. But I’ll never support sending our armed services into an overseas conflict unless our own national security interests are at risk, especially when we have better, safer options. And that’s exactly what I’m advocating now.

Using on our natural gas and oil resources as a check against energy extortion is not a partisan issue, nor should it be. My Democratic colleague Tim Ryan and I started a bipartisan working group in Congress to advocate for the export of liquefied natural gas. We’ve been raising awareness about the opportunity that America holds to help our friends and allies abroad by sending them natural gas that’s plentiful and underfoot,  rather than keeping them dependent on unstable countries, like Russia, who forces them to grant favor in exchange for their energy supply.

Sadly, the President’s Department of Energy has slow-walked the approval of export applications. This delay is not only holding up American jobs, it is now impeding our ability to help our allies around the globe. It is past time for the Mr. Obama’s regulators to approve these permits, especially in light of Russia’s recent actions.