Shortly before the end of last year, the American Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, emphasized the necessity of a “collective and common responsibility of friends for the energy security of Europe” during the Atlantic Council Energy Summit in Istanbul.
A clear and simple statement but not without controversy!
A half year before in Berlin during the Energy Security Summit, it came on stage to an open breach regarding this question between Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the committee for foreign affairs in the Lower House of Parliament, and Carlos Pascual, highest energy diplomat for the US State Department - well documented in interviews held directly afterward with ENERGLOBE.
Röttgen had proposed a new transatlantic energy security partnership with the idea of letting Europe participate in the North American shale gas boom in the form of LNG (liquified natural gas) deliveries, so that dependence on Russian natural gas could be reduced. Röttgen also asked the question whether such an energy security partnership would not belong conceptually in the reorientation of NATO. Pascual rejected Röttgen’s proposal catagorically with the rationale that it was not an issue for the US government, rather for private enterprise in the US to invest in shale gas, and that therefore these enterprises alone would decide - strictly according to market forces - where they would sell the gas.
Even secretary of energy Moniz had emphasized several times in the past that it was a matter for private enterprise alone where they sell their shale gas. Did something about this position change due to the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine?
In talks with ENERGLOBE, Moniz clarified his viewpoint: If you consider the granting of licenses for the export of LNG, then of course the government in no way makes any decision regarding the recipients of the deliveries. You only make a decision as regards the licenses. In the coming decades, the US will belong to the most important exporters of LNG, according to its own conviction, but extent and clientele would only be determined through the international markets. „There is no conflict there with the idea of energy security“, says Moniz.
The collective part of a common responsibility for European energy security, Moniz continues, is based on the European side on the international interconnection of its energy infrastructure immediately at hand. In the US on the other hand, you might easily come to the conviction that there are presently sufficient energy sources for yourself to not have to be concerned about energy security in Europe. „What I'm saying is no!“ Moniz emphasizes. There are many relationships with Europe - not only in matters of energy - also geopolitically on questions of international security. If one of the allies or friends is not secure, that has an effect on all US activities.
You have to be clear, Moniz goes on, that the current high dependence of Europe on Russian natural gas greatly influences the political capability of US Allies to make decisions.
Asked if he therefore sees the necessity for a new transatlantic energy security partnership, Moniz answers with a clear “yes”, and points to the fact that the G7 along with the EU are in the midst of a process to guarantee European energy security.
First of all for the current winter. For that reason, according to Moniz, the US has sent teams of experts both to Kiev as well as Brussels for longer periods of time to resolve the tasks jointly.
An additional point would be the stress tests of EU member states as regards security for supply of natural gas. But for Moniz, only a beginning, because „we believe that energy security involves a lot more than natural gas.“ For that reason, he views it as an important task to extend these stress tests to all areas of energy security.
Third, there will be a joint discussion during the G7 summit meeting in June of this year for long term goals of energy security. This plan was prepared during the last G7 meeting of energy ministers to the extent that a list was made of individual points important for energy security.
In September of last year, one of the best known US energy experts, Edward Chow, had warned across from ENERGLOBE that the debate about a new transatlantic energy security partnership in the US was only being exploited in order to cancel the ban on export for American gas and oil. Chow had gone so far as to ask the East European representatives in Washington D.C., if it were truly advisable for them to waste their cards on this of all issues.
Approached about this assessment, Moniz replies that you mustn’t exaggerate this question, rather view it in the proper context. Currently the number of license grants for LNG export will not be prevented primarily by his office, rather by the finance lacking for corresponding projects, and as far as oil is concerned, the US had still ‘imported’ more than 7 million barrels daily last year.