Europe pledges to use more US energy under Trump trade deal

The European Commission said Thursday that a recent spike in liquefied natural gas imports from the U.S. would be maintained and even expanded under President Trump’s trade deal with Europe, as long as the U.S. honors its side of the bargain by cutting “red tape.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Europe stands ready to “facilitate more imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. and this is already the case as we speak.” The European Commission on Thursday also reiterated Juncker’s stance that the U.S. needs to “play its role in doing away with red tape restrictions” on natural gas exports.

President Trump had made the point to country leaders last month that it would be wise to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia, rather than be “captive” to its natural gas pipelines. The administration opposes the Nord Stream II Pipeline project connecting Russia to Europe via Germany.

“Since the arrival of the first U.S. LNG carrier in the Portuguese port of Sines April 2016 … E.U. imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S. have increased from zero to 2.8 billion cubic meters,” Thursday’s statement from the commission read. By comparison, Russia exported about 198 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe and other destinations in 2015, according to the CIA’s World Factbook.

Miguel Arias Canete, a European commissioner for climate change and energy, welcomed increased use of U.S. natural gas as a positive development. Increasing imports of “competitively priced liquefied natural gas” would increase diversification and security, and “is therefore to be welcomed,” he said in a European Commission statement.

Canete pointed out that the shift to American gas is happening at a time when European natural gas production is “declining more rapidly than foreseen and there is an accelerated phase-out of coal power plants in the E.U.”

The statement of support came just a few weeks after Trump’s July 25 agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to strengthen E.U.-U.S. strategic cooperation on energy amid growing tensions over trade.

The U.S. and European Union officials are slated to meet in Washington on Aug. 20.

“Both sides have much to gain by working together in the energy field,” Juncker said.

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