US Shale Gas to Cut ‘Visegrad 4’ Dependence on Russia?

Written by | Monday, March 10th, 2014

Four countries in Central Europe – members of the Visegrad 4 Group – have requested the US Congress to make it easier for them to import natural gas from the United States, thus reducing their dependence on supplies from Russia. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia – all Visegrad 4 member states – are looking for ways to diversify supplies to eliminate the chances that Russia, the region’s former hegemonic power during the Cold War era, could use its control of gas and oil flows to exert political pressure on the former Soviet satellite states.
In fact, it was during a 2009 dispute between Ukraine and Russia that the supplies were disrupted and in the context of the ongoing escalation of tensions between Russia and the West over Russia’s seizure of Crimea, the concerns in Central Europe are growing that their energy security could be under threat again. In 2013, Russia’s Gazprom supplied the EU and Turkey with a record 162 billion cubic metres of gas, of which about a half went through Ukraine. A ‘warning shot’ sounded only last Friday when Gazprom admonished Kiev that it could stop shipping gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills.
The Visegrad 4 ambassadors to Washington were reported to have asked House Speaker John Boehner in a letter to remove bureaucratic hurdles and make it possible to start exporting US shale gas to the region. More specifically, the official letter stressed that “with the current shale gas revolution in the United States, American companies are seeking to export gas, including to Europe. But the existing bureaucratic hurdles for the approval of the export licenses to non-FTA (free-trade agreement) countries like the Visegrad countries are a major hurdle.” The House Speaker subsequently supported the call saying that “President Obama will [hopefully] 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,” he said. The US president does not need congressional approval to approve applications to export natural gas.

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