Four nations urge U.S. gas exports amid Ukraine crisis


WASHINGTON (AP) — Four Central European nations are
urging the United States to boost natural gas exports to Europe as a
hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of
gas to Ukraine.
Ambassadors from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the
Czech Republic made their appeal Friday in a letter to House Speaker
John Boehner, R-Ohio. A similar letter was expected to be sent to Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
The letter from the four
nations, known as the Visegrad Group, asks for Congress to support
speedier approval of natural gas exports, noting that the "presence of
U.S. natural gas would be much welcome in Central and Eastern Europe."
ambassadors warn that the unrest in Ukraine has brought back Cold War
memories and that energy security threatens the region’s residents on a
daily basis.
"Gas-to-gas competition in our region is a vital
aspect of national security and a key U.S. interest in the region," the
ambassadors wrote in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, and previous disputes
between Ukraine and Russia have led to gas supply cuts. Russian state
gas company Gazprom has increased the pressure on Ukraine’s new
government, which now owes $1.89 billion for Russian natural gas, by
warning that if Ukraine doesn’t pay off its debt, there could be a
repeat of 2009, when Russia cut off supplies to Europe because of a
pricing dispute with Ukraine.
Recent advancements have made it
possible for gas that normally flows through Ukraine to the EU to
instead flow the other direction, so that nations like Poland and
Hungary can supply gas to Ukraine if Russia were to cut off its supply.
But with gas supplies limited, the region is still vulnerable unless the
U.S. makes it easier to import American natural gas, the ambassadors
Boehner and Republicans have been urging the Obama
administration to clear the way for more exports amid a natural gas boom
in the U.S. The Energy Department has only approved six export licenses
in recent years out of about two dozen pending.
In a statement
Saturday, Boehner called on Obama to "heed this call from our allies"
and "do everything possible to use American energy to reduce the
dependency on Russia for our friends in Europe and around the globe."
hope President Obama will heed this call from our allies to use his
‘pen and phone’ to direct the Secretary of Energy to immediately approve
pending natural gas export requests and do everything possible to use
American energy to reduce the dependency on Russia for our friends in
Europe and around the globe."
The White House has argued that
Russia’s dependence on gas revenues makes it unlikely that the country
will cut off supplies to Europe despite the ongoing crisis in the
Ukrainian region of Crimea, where the Russian military has intervened in
what the U.S. regards as a violation of international law.
House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday that because Europe has had a
relatively mild winter, gas supplies are at or above normal levels. He
said even if the U.S. did approve more export licenses, it would take
until the end of 2015 for gas to be delivered.
"Proposals to try
to respond to the situation in Ukraine that are related to our policy on
exporting natural gas would not have an immediate effect," Earnest
Reach Josh Lederman at
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or

No posts to display