By Georgi Gotev
(EurActiv) — US President Donald Trump plans to promote US liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports at a meeting next Thursday (6 July) in Warsaw with a dozen leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, a region heavily reliant on Russian supplies.
In a speech on 29 June Trump hailed the start of a “golden era” that would see the US energy business assert its power abroad through a boost in natural gas, coal and petroleum exports.
After decades of being a major importer of natural gas, the United States is set to become a net exporter later this year or in 2018, thanks to the boom in fracking in states such as Texas and Pennsylvania.
“We are here today to unleash a new American energy policy,” Trump said at an event at the Department of Energy, attended by oil and coal executives and union members who build pipelines. “We will export American energy all around the world.”
In what he called a policy of “energy dominance”, Trump re-branded efforts to export LNG to markets in Eastern Europe and Asia that had been set in motion during the previous presidential administration.
“We’re going to be an exporter. […] We will be dominant. We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe. […] The golden era of America is now underway. Believe me,” Trump said.
The Trump administration sees growth in LNG exports as a way to reduce trade deficits with other nations and expand the economy.
Earlier this month, Cheniere Energy Inc delivered the first US cargoes of LNG to Poland and the Netherlands.
The United States will also offer to export coal to Ukraine, whose energy supply has been affected by the conflict in Donbas, a historic coal mining region.
“Ukraine already tells us they need millions and millions of metric tons right now. There are many other places that need it, too. And we want to sell it to them, and to everyone else all over the globe who need it,” Trump said.
‘Three Seas Initiative’
Trump is due in Europe this week to attend the G20 meeting in Hamburg. But just before that, he will make a stopover in Warsaw, where he will attend a summit of the “Three Seas Initiative”.
Apart from Poland, this recent pro-Atlantic initiative comprises the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia, First Lady Melania’s home country.
Eastern Europe is heavily reliant on Russian gas transported via pipelines. Conversely, the United States has looked at boosting its LNG exports for years, since drilling advances vastly expanded its domestic supplies.
Trump’s top economic advisor said that in Warsaw, the US president will promote US LNG exports.
“There are people who use supply almost as a political weapon, in threatening to cut off supply in the coldest parts of the year – in the winter, when people need gas to heat their homes,” Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, said in an interview with Reuters.
“Our intention is to be a force for good and make gas readily available for anyone who needs it,” Cohn said.
Moscow cut off gas shipments during pricing disputes with Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, causing shortages in several European nations. Russia’s new strategy is to build pipelines to bypass Ukraine, such as Nord Stream 2.
Energy-rich Russia considers Europe as its natural market and has built extensive infrastructure over the years to deliver its oil and gas to its European clients. Conversely, there is currently one operating US LNG exporting facility in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, with four others currently under construction, which are expected to become operational between 2018 and 2020.
Diplomats from older EU member states dismiss the importance of the “Three Seas Initiative”, but are wary over Trump’s attempt to divide Europe.
Commentators have said that Poland may become overconfident and confrontational after Trump’s visit, which will in turn lead to the country’s gradual isolation in the EU.
Other European nations are envious that Trump will be visiting Poland before the G20 summit, the country’s most powerful politician said on Saturday (1 July).
Jarosław Kaczyński, head of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), singled out Britain as being envious.
“We have a new success, Trump’s visit,” said Kaczyński, a conservative who sets the direction for Poland’s domestic and foreign policy. “[Others] envy it; the British are attacking us because of it.”