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Europe Will Be Stuck With American Natural Gas For Decades

The European Commission’s director general for energy lets the cat out of the bag.

Natural gas pipelines.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, Europe had to scramble for natural gas from a country that much of the continent wasn’t in a proxy war against. American liquefied natural gas exporters were more than happy to step up, with exports to Europe rising some 141 percent from 2021 to 2022.

And it appears like the European dependence on natural gas exports from the United States isn’t going away anytime soon. Bloomberg reported today that a major German utility, Uniper, has negotiated an LNG deal through the late 2030s.

Europe is stuck between its aggressive climate commitments and its enduring need for natural gas, a need that America’s booming oil-and-gas export sector is eager to fill, even as the United States finally ostensibly has a climate change policy aimed at transitioning its domestic economy to lower emissions.

Ditte Juul Jørgensen, the European Commission’s Director General for Energy, told the Financial Times “we will need some fossil molecules in the system over the coming couple of decades. And in that context, there will be a need for American energy,” indicating that despite Europe’s intensive efforts to transition to renewables, imported fossil fuels will be playing a large role in their economy even as it approaches the middle of the century.

While green-minded Europe is reaffirming its dependence on American natural gas, green groups in the United States have never been more wary of the natural gas industry, which has gone from a “bridge fuel” in the eyes of some environmentalists to a methane-leaking fracked colossus.

The influential environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben flagged in the New Yorker the upcoming licensing decision for Calcasieu Pass 2, an LNG export terminal planned to be built aside the existing Calcasieu Pass terminal in Southwest Louisiana that would export 20 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas per year. He called the project a “poster child for late-stage petrocapitalism” that “would help lock in the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels long past what scientists have identified as the breaking point for the climate system.”

Of the 9.25 million metric tons that Venture Global, the company behind the project, has said it has already contracted to sell, about a third will go to Germany.

Matthew Zeitlin profile image

Matthew Zeitlin

Matthew is a correspondent at Heatmap. Previously he was an economics reporter at Grid, where he covered macroeconomics and energy, and a business reporter at BuzzFeed News, where he covered finance. He has written for The New York Times, the Guardian, Barron's, and New York Magazine.


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