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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in Brussels

U.S. President Joe Biden, flanked by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, makes a statement in Brussels on March 25, 2022. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Groups Rip 'Climate-Wrecking' Biden Plan to Boost US Gas Exports to Europe

"Approving more export terminals, pipelines, and fossil fuel production," said one environmentalist, "only throws fuel on the fire of our burning world."

Jake Johnson

Global climate advocates on Friday panned as "misguided and dangerous" the Biden administration's newly announced effort to ramp up U.S. gas shipments to European Union countries as they look to reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

"If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas, the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether."

Under the new initiative, according to a White House fact sheet, the U.S. will help the E.U. secure an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2022 "with expected increases going forward"—a set-up likely to benefit U.S. gas exporters.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that "the U.S. aims to ship 50 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe annually through at least 2030... making up for about a third of the gas the E.U. receives from Russia."

"The E.U. imported a record 22 billion cubic meters of LNG from the U.S. last year," the Journal noted. New gas projects are set to come online in 2025.

While the Biden administration vowed to "undertake efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of all new LNG infrastructure and associated pipelines," climate campaigners warned that the planned construction of new import facilities in Europe flies in the face of both U.S. and E.U. vows to slash planet-warming carbon emissions.

"Europe already has enough capacity to import the amount of gas the U.S. intends to supply, and building new import terminals would mean locking in fossil gas imports for years to come, long after the E.U. needs to quit this climate-wrecking fuel for good," Murray Worthy, the gas campaign leader at Global Witness, said in a statement.

"Doubling down on gas is not the solution, whether it comes from Russia or the U.S.," Worthy continued. "This announcement does not and must not be used to justify more fossil fuel projects in the U.S.  New gas export terminals would take too long to build to help Europe now, would lead to huge climate-wrecking emissions and only help the fossil fuel industry."

"Instead of lining the pockets of American fracking companies," he added, "Europe should focus its energy investments on lasting solutions such as improving building insulation, heat pumps, and renewable energy sources. More investment and reliance on fossil fuels is music to the ears of despots and warmongers all over the world who recognize this is an energy system that benefits them. If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas, the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether."

Grassroots and tribal leaders in the U.S. also made clear that they will fight any effort to construct new gas export infrastructure.

"That is genocidal, and we will no longer allow it to happen," said Juan Mancias, tribal chair of the Esto'k Gna Nation. "We people of the land, we will stand fast, we are not going away... You are killing our ancestors again when you start building LNG terminals and pipelines."

In response to Russia's deadly assault on Ukraine—now in its second month with no end in sight—the E.U. is looking to slash Russian gas imports by two-thirds this year and completely end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

"President Biden must lead the world with a rapid buildout of renewable energy—not feed the fossil fuel beast."

Before the Ukraine invasion, Europe got roughly 40% of its gas supply and 27% of its oil imports from Russia, an arrangement that led E.U. members—Germany in particular—to resist sanctions targeting the Russian fossil fuel industry.

"We aim to reduce this dependence on Russian fossil fuels and get rid of it," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Friday.

But Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, warned in a statement Friday that simply switching gas suppliers "won't solve Europe's current crisis"—and will surely make the climate emergency worse.

"Pushing new toxic export facilities and decades more methane gas is a death sentence for those on the frontlines of the climate emergency," Siegel said of the U.S. role in the new initiative. "President Biden must lead the world with a rapid buildout of renewable energy—not feed the fossil fuel beast that's responsible for both petro-dictators and the climate crisis."

"Approving more export terminals, pipelines, and fossil fuel production," Siegel added, "only throws fuel on the fire of our burning world."

Collin Rees, the U.S. program manager at Oil Change International, agreed, noting that new LNG infrastructure "would take years to build and would operate for decades, far beyond a timeline compatible with meeting climate goals."

"No amount of LNG expansion is consistent with net-zero," said Rees. "The U.S. and E.U. must reject any temptation to lock in deadly new gas infrastructure that would further destabilize our economies and imperil our climate goals."

This story has been updated to include additional reaction from opponents of the gas plan.

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