By Ed Royce

In The Orange County Register:


It is the Russian Army that has seized control of the Crimean Peninsula, but it is Russia’s considerable energy resources that allow Moscow to hold all of Ukraine hostage. America’s newly developing energy supply could be put into play, denting President Vladimir Putin’s strength to our geopolitical advantage. But first our red tape must go.

A big part of Putin’s power at home and abroad is Russia’s large oil and gas resources, which account for 70 percent of its trade, 52 percent of its budget and 18 percent of its gross domestic product. Europe purchases about a third of the gas it needs from Russia. Germany, at 40 percent, and Ukraine, at 60 percent, are particularly dependent upon Moscow.

Putin has not been afraid to wield this significant leverage. Last week, Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine, alleging missed payments. This is no empty threat. Russia cut off energy supplies to Ukraine in 2006 and 2009.

While the United States recently became the world’s largest producer of natural gas, Russia is still the biggest exporter, using its energy resources to leverage global influence. While Putin is selling oil and gas freely around the world, we impose major impediments to selling our energy to all but a handful of countries.

A half dozen years ago, American natural gas supplies were believed to be dwindling. But recent innovations in energy exploration have enabled the United States to produce more energy than at any point in our history. U.S. production of natural gas is projected to rise 44 percent by 2040. This increased energy production has created thousands of American jobs.

But we haven’t yet fully realized the geopolitical impact of our natural resources. The Department of Energy runs a slow and burdensome approval process for energy exports. Over the past three years, just six of the applications to export natural gas have received Department approval, while 24 are still pending. This is government at its glacial pace.

Instead of exporting natural gas, companies are forced to flare the glut created by this bureaucracy. President Barack Obama could move quickly to remove the obstacles placed on American energy exports: deploying our abundant resources to boost jobs, aiding allies and undermining Putin’s energy dominance over Ukraine and much of Europe.

Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee demonstrated U.S. support for Ukraine by unanimously adopting House Resolution 499. This resolution condemns Russia’s invasion, expresses support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic aspirations, and also calls on the United States to promote increased gas exports, efficiency and energy diversification in order to undermine Russia’s stranglehold on its neighbor and trading partners. This bipartisan resolution was endorsed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, sending a powerful signal to Kiev and to Moscow that the United States is prepared to get off the sidelines.

And since the president has chosen not to use his authority to permit natural gas exports, Congress can do the job for him by passing legislation to increase the number of countries that would receive accelerated approval of natural gas exports by the Department of Energy.

Russia’s aggression has Western nations looking for ways to diplomatically isolate Russia and impose “costs” on Moscow in order to pressure Russian troops out of Ukraine. I have called for targeted measures such as visa and financial bans against top Russian officials.

We should complement that effort by ending the self-imposed sanctions on our energy exports. America leads the world in its dynamic and innovative energy sector. Let’s use it for the benefit of the American people, U.S. foreign policy and the security of our partners around the world.

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Fullerton, is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.


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