US: Blatant Interference to Deprive Europe of Lucrative Gas Deals

US: Blatant Interference to Deprive Europe of Lucrative Gas Deals

The United States does not shy away from blatant interference into the EU’s internal affairs, especially energy policy, in an attempt to deprive Europe of lucrative gas deals.

The development of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline would have negative consequences for the whole Eastern Europe, including Ukraine and Slovakia. The remarks were made by the US State Secretary John Kerry before a meeting with the E.U. High Representative Federica Mogherini in Washington.

He also emphasized the strength of the US-EU partnership. «We seem to have a massive amount of our global agenda contained in the relationships here in this room, which speaks volumes to the strength of the EU-US partnership in general, and I know people in certain countries take note of that because I think it’s important», the Secretary noted.  

Creole Spirit, a tanker from Louisiana transporting US liquefied natural gas (LNG) arrived to Portugal in late April. It was the first shipment in a trade relationship intended to shake up the market and make Europe dependent on the US energy supplies. The hope is pinned on enticing prices to tip the balance into the US favor.

The plans fail to meet reality for a number of reasons.

First, Russia accounts for 30-31% of supplies to Europe. It may be the leading supplier but it’s not the only one. Norway lags slightly behind with 28%. Staying out of the EU, Oslo closely coordinates with Brussels its energy policy. The Scandinavian supplier is followed by Algeria (13%), Qatar (11%) and Libya (2%). For Qatar, also a LNG supplier, the US is a competitor. The situation on the European market does not boil down to Russia-US competition only. It complicates things for Americans.

Second, LNG is hardly a challenger to piped gas in Europe. According to the recent estimates of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, the price for liquefied natural gas in Europe is hovering around $3.59 per million BTU ($125.7 per thousand cubic meters). The price of Russian gas this year is $180 per thousand cubic meters. Even if the estimates are impartial (the British scholars admit the estimates are rough), one thing is missing here. Unlike American shale gas producers, Gazprom has signed long-term contracts with European partners. The price is free to fluctuate. It can be significantly lowered, if need be. Sea-transported LNG price fully depends on the current situation on the market. It’s not a competitor to piped gas.

Third, the United States has to promote energy projects, which compete with US-produced LNG. For instance, Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), a pipeline project to transport natural gas from the Caspian sea (Azerbaijan), starting from Greece via Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy and further to Western Europe. It is expected to become operational in 2019. The estimated capacity is 10-20 billion cubic meters annually. It’s a drop in the bucket. Gazprom sells around 160 billion cubic meters yearly. At the same time, TAP is a serious competitor to sea-transported supplies.

Fourth, as a rule the gas price is pegged to the oil price. There is a great chance that oil prices will go up to negatively affect the US ability to compete with Russian piped gas supplied under long-terms contracts. Saudi Arabia, a key player on the world oil market, has announced its decision to raise the oil price for Asian buyers in June. This may be a harbinger of upcoming changes. Asia accounts for more than half of Saudi exports. According to KBC Energy Economics, a leading consulting company, consumer demand makes oil prices grow. 

The competition between sea-transported US LNG and Russian piped gas continues. Washington is far from being a clear winner. That’s why US officials meddle in to promote American energy producers’ interests in Europe. John Kerry has gone as far as to openly interfere into EU internal affairs. But the pressure from the US will not make life better for the Europeans.