Forum: Europeans urged to be patient as Trump team develops energy policies

European policymakers who support continued US cooperation with their natural gas and other energy supply diversification efforts should give Trump administration officials time to formulate their own policies before passing judgment, speakers generally agreed at a Jan. 31 Atlantic Council forum.

European policymakers who support continued US cooperation with their natural gas and other energy supply diversification efforts should give Trump administration officials time to formulate their own policies before passing judgment, speakers generally agreed at a Jan. 31 Atlantic Council forum.

“Cooperation between our countries depends heavily on common interests, security, and a deep commitment,” said Piotr Naimski, Poland’s plenipotentiary for strategic energy independence. “But the world is changing, and new challenges lie ahead. I believe energy security is very important. It could be the cornerstone for a new collective security.”

Dominique Ristori, director general for energy at the European Commission, said that EU-US energy cooperation has succeeded because participants share a desire to keep energy from being politicized. Projects are being agreed to and are moving ahead, particularly to improve natural gas interconnections in Eastern Europe, he told his audience. “We’re interested in combining public and private support for energy technology research and development, which seems to be working in the US,” Ristori said.

Retired US Ambassador Richard Morningstar, who is founding director and chairman of the Council’s Global Energy Center, said, “The US—particularly some members of Congress—should remember that the most we can do to improve Europe’s energy security is to offer suggestions and support. Europeans will make the actual decisions.

“Whatever the new administration’s energy policy is, it’s going to be important for experienced people and organizations like the Atlantic Council to keep talking about the importance of diplomacy,” he continued. “There’s still tremendous work to be done on technology, innovation, jobs, and competitiveness—all of which should be of interest to the new administration.”

Michael Kurtyka, Poland’s deputy energy minister, said that the country has built the largest LNG import terminal in the Baltic Sea region and wants to complete agreements to import gas from Norway, which he said would improve choices for all of Central Europe. “Completing the North-South Corridor from the south is a practical objective which seeks to become a reality. Perhaps starting with a connection from Poland to Slovakia will help make it reach Ukraine eventually,” he said.

‘Wider energy panorama’

“We also would like to develop competitive technology. In this respect, the shale revolution could be important in building a wider energy panorama. Poland has the shale oil, but not the ability to produce it. We would like to import more technologies as well as LNG from the US,” Kurtyka maintained.

The US ending its crude oil export ban at the end of 2015 was an important achievement because European countries could become customers, Ristori said. “Our gas import market is about 400 billion cu m/year, but demand is falling in Great Britain and elsewhere. It’s important to improve infrastructure and turn to floating terminals where they would be more practical,” he said.

Speakers also said it would be important to continue seeking alternatives to the proposed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. “Poland believes it would have disastrous effects on the European market and increase supply concerns, particularly for countries like Ukraine,” said Kurtyka. “US troops are on their way to Poland, and they will be welcome. I hope we can find other ways for our two countries to increase security.”

Said Morningstar, “You may not hear as much screaming from [the Trump] administration about Nord Stream 2. It probably will be more neutral than its predecessor. Congress is another matter. It probably will stay concerned about it. European law is tremendous. I believe the Russians shelved [the South Stream gas pipeline] because it never would have passed muster with the EU in Brussels. Its power will be to force all participants, include Gazprom, to follow the rules.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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