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biden at eu meeting

U.S. President Joe Biden attends the E.U. Leaders' Summit in Brussels, Belgium on March 24, 2022. (Photo: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Ahead of EU Gas Announcement, Biden Urged to Boost Clean Energy Not LNG

Climate campaigners point to Russia's war on Ukraine as further evidence that "we must rapidly transition to affordable clean energy, not double down on risky fossil fuels."

Jessica Corbett

In anticipation of U.S. President Joe Biden's expected Friday announcement about sending more gas to the European Union, green groups this week have warned him and other world leaders against doubling down on fossil fuels in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Proponents of expanded LNG exports are cynically trying to capitalize on the current crisis and use it to justify a massive, long-term expansion of fossil fuel development and exports."

Various members of the administration—including the president, in Europe on Thursday—have teased the plan to send more U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) to E.U. nations so they can cut their reliance on Russia's fossil fuels as Russian President Vladimir Putin wages war.

"The solution to the energy crisis exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine isn't doubling down on fracking here in the United States—or anywhere else," declared Food & Water Watch managing director of policy Mitch Jones in a statement Thursday.

"The fossil fuel industry, which is enjoying soaring profits amidst considerable suffering, pushes fracked gas exports as the solution, despite the fact that new fossil fuel export infrastructure will take years to develop, and Europe lacks infrastructure to move LNG through the continent," he noted.

Jones continued:

President Biden should firmly reject any plans to fast track gas export terminals here in the United States. Corporate polluters are brazenly seizing on this crisis to secure decades of dependence on dirty energy, which will further devastate frontline communities and abandon any hopes for bold climate action.

This crisis must drive political leaders to prioritize energy independence by speeding the transition to clean, renewable energy coupled with increasing energy efficiency—not deepening our foolish dependence on polluting fossil fuels. We urge leaders here and abroad to craft policies that prioritize peace and climate stability, not corporate profiteering and geopolitical manipulation.

Sierra Club senior director of energy campaigns Kelly Sheehan delivered a similar message Wednesday, saying in a statement that "proponents of expanded LNG exports are cynically trying to capitalize on the current crisis and use it to justify a massive, long-term expansion of fossil fuel development and exports, but the Biden administration should not take the bait."

"Make no mistake, the solutions the fossil fuel industry is proposing right now wouldn't help anyone but themselves," she said. "Allowing for the expansion of new and expanded pipelines and gas export facilities, which wouldn't come online for years, would do nothing to help Europe in the short term and would only line the pockets of fossil fuel executives and lock in reliance on risky, volatile fossil fuels for decades to come."

"As long as we rely on volatile global commodities like oil and gas, we'll always be vulnerable to geopolitics and the whims of greedy fossil fuel executives," Sheehan warned. "To achieve true energy independence, we must rapidly transition to affordable clean energy, not double down on risky fossil fuels."

Speaking at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Biden said that the U.S. is coordinating with the Group of 7 and E.U. "on food security, as well as energy security, and I'll have more to say about that tomorrow."

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm acknowledged the energy plan during a press conference at the International Energy Agency ministerial meeting in Paris on Thursday.

"With respect to the discussions that are happening right now regarding LNG, United States, etc., I'm going to allow the president to make that announcement—and that is soon," she said.

Their remarks came after Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security adviser, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday that the president would make the announcement Friday with the European Commission, the E.U.'s executive arm.

"I think you can expect that the U.S. will look for ways to increase LNG supplies—surge LNG supplies to Europe—not just over the course of years, but over the course of months as well," Sullivan said. "Of course, that amount will grow over time."

The Washington Post reported that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday that she planned to discuss with Biden—who arrived in Belgium that night—how E.U. members "can contribute in reducing our dependency on Russian gas."

"Tomorrow, I will discuss with President Biden how to prioritize LNG deliveries from the United States to the European Union in the coming months," she said. "We are aiming at having a commitment for additional supplies for the next two winters."

Biden's trip to Europe follows a closed-door meeting at the White House Monday with 16 top executives, including the CEOs of Bank of America, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, and Marathon Petroleum.

Chase CEO Jamie Dimon advocated for creating "a 'Marshall Plan' to develop more domestic gas and other energy resources," telling the president and his aides that "additional gas production is needed both for Europe and America's energy security," Axios reported Tuesday. "He is calling for more liquefied natural gas facilities in Europe, reduced reliance on Russian imports, and investments in new technology—like hydrogen and carbon capture."

The reporting drew criticism of Dimon, a longtime target of climate campaigners due to Chase's financial support for the fossil fuel industry.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, climate advocacy groups have highlighted that, as Helene Bourges of Greenpeace France put it earlier this month, "Europe's gas dependence is funding Putin's war machine."

They have also warned—in the words of Greenpeace USA senior climate campaigner Ashley Thomson—that "peace will only come through accelerating the transition to renewable energy, not by trading Russian oligarchs for American oil and gas barons."

Thomson's comment came after Biden's Energy Department last week issued two long-term orders giving a pair of Cheniere Energy projects "additional flexibility" to export LNG "to any country with which the U.S. does not have a free trade agreement, including all of Europe."

Climate activists and progressive lawmakers are calling on Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase production of fossil fuel-reducing technologies like heat pumps, which would decrease "U.S. and European dependence on Russia and other authoritarian petrostates," as five Democratic senators wrote in a Wednesday letter to the White House.

By using executive authority "to spur American manufacturing and the deployment of clean energy and energy-efficient electric technologies in the United States and Europe," the senators told Biden, "you could bolster our national security, create good-paying American jobs, fight the climate crisis, and build a just, resilient, American-led international clean energy economy."

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