First US Natural Gas Shipment Arrives In Poland, Undermining Russia

(REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Poland received its first shipment of U.S.-produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) exported Wednesday.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło attended the historic gas delivery and said that it was the country’s next step in increasing energy independence from Russia.

“The United States welcomes the arrival of the first U.S. liquefied natural gas shipment to Central Europe, which arrived in Poland on June 7,” Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said in a press statement. “U.S. LNG exports support American jobs, lower energy prices for our partners abroad, and contribute to Europe’s energy security goals using a reliable, market based supplier.”

U.S. natural gas exports threaten Russia’s dominance over European energy markets, especially in Eastern Europe. Poland, for example, received 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia in 2013. Europe as a whole got about half of its gas imports from Russia, which may have hampered their response to Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine.

“The Department of State has worked closely with European partners to diversify European energy supplies through new sources of natural gas, vital interconnectors and new facilities to import LNG,” Nauert said. “The United States congratulates Poland on this significant step to diversify its own sources of energy and to strengthen Europe’s energy security.”

Threatening to use U.S. LNG to create a more diverse supply of natural gas could be a potent bargaining tool when Poland renegotiates its current energy deals with Russia in a few years.

In 2013, Poland imported 60 percent of its natural gas from Russia while Europe got about half of its imports from the country. This dependence prevented many of America’s European allies from responding more forcefully to Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine.

The export of American LNG to Europe has the potential to reduce Russia’s ability to use natural gas as a political weapon against America’s allies in Eastern Europe. Russia used interruptions in the natural gas supply in 2006, 2009 and 2015 to put political pressure on Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

Selling LNG to Europe would have minimal costs and huge economic benefits, according to a study published in December by the Department Of Energy (DOE). The DOE found that exporting American LNG provides huge environmental benefits that will “address a variety of environmental concerns in the power‐generation sector.” Research suggests that exporting U.S. LNG will create than 136,000 jobs nationwide and generate $145 billion in economic activity. The average salary for a permanent job in a U.S. LNG export facility is expected to be $70,000 per year, with total compensation of $110,000.

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