US President Joe Biden and the EU President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Friday a major deal on liquified natural gas, in an attempt to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.
The agreement will see the US provide the EU with at least 15 billion additional cubic metres of the fuel – known as LNG – by the end of the year.
“Today we’ve agreed on a joint gameplan toward” reducing European reliance on Russian gas, Biden said at a joint press conference with von der Leyen.
“Putin is using Russia’s energy resources to coerce and manipulate its neighbours,” Biden said to reporters in Brussels. “He’s used the profits to drive his war machine.”
Biden: Long term benefits of the gas deal will outweigh short term pain
Biden said the long term benefits of the deal would outweigh the short term pain that reducing Russian gas supplies would cause.
“I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing.”
Russian energy is a key source of income and political leverage for Moscow with almost 40% of the European Union’s natural gas coming from Russia to heat homes, generate electricity and power industry.
EU needs to diversify from Russia
President von der Leyen said: “We want, as Europeans, to diversify away from Russia towards suppliers that we trust that are friends and that are reliable.”
She pointed out that the target 50 billion cubic metres per year “is replacing one-third already of the Russian gas going to Europe today. So we are right on track now to diversify away from Russian gas.”
The transatlantic partnership stands stronger than ever.
In a world faced with disorder, our unity upholds fundamental values and rules that our citizens believe in.
And we are determined to stand up against Russia’s brutal war.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) March 25, 2022
The European Union has already said it will cut Russian gas use in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The longer-term aim is to ensure, until at least 2030, about 50 billion cubic metres per year of US gas, up from last year’s 22 billion cubic metres.
However, as a report in Euronews notes, getting more liquefied natural gas to Europe could be difficult, even though the US has been dramatically increasing its exports in recent years.
Many export facilities are already operating at capacity, and most new terminals are still only in the planning stages.