Europe Shakes Off Addiction To Russian Oil — Moves Toward US Gas

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Europeans see the burgeoning U.S. natural gas market as a way to wean off Russian crude, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Like shale gas was a game changer in the U.S., American gas exports could be a game changer for Europe,” Maros Sefcovic, the European Union’s energy chief, told The WSJ.

Russia is currently Europe’s biggest gas supplier, but that could all change — according to Deutsche Bank, one of the world’s leading financial institutions — because the U.S. is pegged to catch up with the former USSR within the next 10 years.

Deutcsche Banks estimates show each controlling a fifth of the energy market. European energy markets are reeling.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told reporters in January he hopes U.S. gas arrives in the Eastern European country via Greek LNG facilities, “God willing.” Bulgaria currently receives 90 percent of its gas from Russia.

Competition will be stiff, however, as the U.S. will have to edge out Norway, U.K., Australia and others in Europe’s gas market.

And in Lithuania, officials claim Russia uses underhanded tricks and espionage to defend their share of the energy market. Others have made the same claim about OPEC’s move to push LNG out of the market.

“In Russia, gas always goes together with politics,” Rokas Masiulis, Lithuania’s energy minister, said in an interview in February. “Russia is extremely aggressive in gas pricing and the arrival of U.S. LNG will change that.”

In fact, in 2014, Russian natural gas firm Gazprom owned and controlled nearly 40 percent of Lithuania’s only gas company, Lietuvos Dujos. Russia ruled the gas company with an iron fist, according to Lithuanian officials.

“There was no negotiation about gas prices,” Jaroslav Neverovic, Lithuania’s former energy minister, told WSJ reporters. He added Gazprom would send Lietuvos Dujos a list of gas prices, all of which would be rubber stamped by Lietuvos Dujos’s Russian controlled board.

After yeas of being manhandled by Russian price fixes, Lithuania decided in 2012 to lease from a Norwegian company a gas ship called the Independent.

“Nobody else, from now on, will be able to dictate to us the price of gas, or to buy our political will,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said at a ceremony welcoming the Independent to the country.

Russian meddling has increased due to Lithuania’s move to acquire the 950-foot ship. Public officials in Lithuania jettisoned a Russian council in March claiming he was spying on the pipelines carrying natural gas from the Independent to port.

“You can feel that Russia is getting nervous about our terminal receiving U.S. gas,” Mantas Bartuska, chief executive of the Independent, told reporters.

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