LNG Allies held the second of a series of planned breakfast seminars on Wed. Nov. 19, to discuss energy security in the Baltic nations. The primary speakers were the ambassadors from Latvia, H.E. Andris Razāns, and Lithuania, Žygimantas Pavilionis. The ambassadors were preceded by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), chair of the House Baltic Caucus.
Rep. Shimkus said: “The U.S. natural gas export issue is one of the few things where there’s everything good about it. Really, sometimes you think there’s some good and there’s some bad to an issue… but this is all good. It’s all good for the areas in our country that will have revived economic activity because of the ability of new technology and fracking to have these areas be prosperous again. It’s good for the steel workers who will build the pipes. It’ll be good for the LNG terminals that will get reaffirmed and reprocessed and turned around, with FERC’s help. And then it’s going to be good to send this LNG to our allies and friends who are currently being extorted, as they have been for decades. That’s why Lithuania’s new LNG import vessel, ‘Independence’ is aptly named, because it starts creating energy freedom in the Baltics and takes one weapon away from totalitarian regimes.”
Ambassador Razāns spoke next and made the following key points:
“Latvia and the other countries in Northern Europe possess huge resources of energy, great expertise in energy security, and many different technological solutions. And we have the great, beautiful Baltic Sea that doesn’t freeze all the time, so it gives us easy access to the ships. And besides that, each and every state possesses something that its neighbors don’t. If you keep us separated, then we act in a different way. But, when there is a strategic, joint view of what the energy future of the region should be within the EU energy policy, then you have a completely different picture.
[In Latvia we have an underground gas] “storage facility not far from the sea, not so far away from our capital, Riga. That facility is connected already with Lithuania, with Estonia, and even provides gas in wintertime back to Russia, to St. Petersburg. It’s big enough really to provide comfortable solutions for our region for quite a long period of time. In situations where there might be sudden cuts in gas supplies from Russia, the gas we store in summertime can last for a long time, more than one year, about two years easily.
[Moreover,] “in Latvia, we have unique geology that can store huge [additional] amounts of gas. We could literally become the European lungs of gas if there is enough investment, if there is enough strategic vision among the leaders, and provided that Baltic gas market is connected to other big European markets through additional pipelines.”
Ambassador Pavilionis also made some powerful points:
“[Our region] is one of the best transformation examples in Europe. We, the kids of the Reagan generation, follow the American dream. We’ve been inspired by American ideals of freedom, democracy, and markets. And today we are one of the fastest growing economies. Soon all three Baltic states will be in the Eurozone, with Lithuania joining in one month.
“Now, we are making real progress with respect to natural gas. Lithuania was one of the first in the region to ‘unbundle’ our market, getting rid of the Gazprom monopoly, disconnecting supplies and distribution, allowing different market forces to play. And we hope that our neighbors will follow because we need that [bigger] gas market created. We have money now to build gas connection to Poland, and we will do it.
“And, we built this LNG vessel because we wanted real gas independence. And so, we don’t have political energy prices in Lithuania today, we have market prices. [Once our LNG import vessel was finished] the price immediately fell because when the monopolist saw that we had alternatives, they start negotiating instead of bullying.
“And yet I’ve had a little problem in Washington, D.C. Being a kid of the Reagan generation, so much in favor of freedom, markets, and democracy, I’m now in my fifth year as ambassador here. For at least three years, I have been battling the Hill and the administration over American values it seems, in energy.
I came to this country thinking that America is still America in energy as well as everything else. And you know, I haven’t found that to be the case.
“I have in my hand a table with the U.S. LNG terminals, and it’s not working. I see a few terminals soon to open for export. They will be operational in 2015 to 2018, but LNG is sold out for a long time, it appears… Yet I know that at least 20 U.S. companies are still lobbying to get their export permissions. And, in every meeting with Energy Secretary Moniz we keep asking the same question: Why?
“In fact, there’s a meeting right now in Istanbul between my energy minister and Secretary Moniz, and I’m sure my minister will ask him the question once again. “Why on earth are you not so ‘American’ on energy? Why are you not pushing for freedom in energy?” Your allies who died beside you in Iraq or Afghanistan or in the Balkans and who are on the frontiers of freedom… Why are we not getting American gas?
“The same could be said about oil. While we applaud the recent changes in oil prices, we know that those autocrats who use energy like a weapon, they rule today in Russia, Iran, and Venezuela. But, next year, America will become the champion of oil production in the world—but you have a ban. You have a ban on exports.
“So my question is this: Why doesn’t America follow the American logic of freedom and democracy in energy?
“I have a dream of America and American energy. I have a dream of America being strategic in energy and thinking about the real concerns of its allies today, not years from now. We don’t have years in my region. We count time now in days and months.”