WASHINGTON (AP) – Amos Hochstein, Joe Biden’s pointman for global energy issues, says he knows fossil fuels are moving away from polluting the environment. The only way to go. He argued urgently for renewable energyFor energy-smart thermostats and heat pumps.
But when it comes to dealing with the pressing power challenges posed by the Russian war on Ukraine, Hochstein also sounds nothing like the oilfield roustabout of the West, carrying a giant pipe wrench to the world’s crisis-level energy shortages.
Hochstein, who appeared earlier this month before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on US Assistance in Russia-Russia Energy Problems in Europe, spoke enthusiastically about the new floating natural gas terminal in Albania, new gas connections elsewhere in the Balkans, and the possibility of increasing gas flow. Sending gas from Central Asia and Spain to the rest of Europe.
“We have to face the fact that Europe’s system today depends on gas,” Hochstein told the AP after the hearing. This is a rare public account from an ambassador who usually works behind the scenes. “And I want to make sure people have heat and they have electricity in the winter.”
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However, some climate advocates are concerned about the Biden administration’s emphasis on new, US-heavy natural gas and infrastructure projects as part of an effort to distance Europe and the US from Europe. Its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
Climate groups have blamed the new costs on building pipelines, terminals, port facilities and storage for the risk of over-reliance on fossil fuels in the coming decades, while doing little to address Europe’s most immediate energy crisis.
Criticism mounted on Tuesday after Biden and other leaders in the Group of Seven softened their 2021 climate pledges, citing the Russian war and avoiding public financing for new fossil fuel infrastructure.
“Public support for gas infrastructure is not a climate presidency Joe Biden’s promise,” Kate DeAngelis, international finance program manager for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement in response.
With US companies nearly tripling exports of American liquefied natural gas to Europe within months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Hochstein cited his immediate challenge: getting Europeans not to freeze in their homes until the end of the year.
The European Union received about 40% of its natural gas from Russia before the war. Western-led sanctions and Russian cutoffs, as well as Europe’s major shift to non-Russian suppliers, are causing Russia to lose its natural gas to Europe.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers welcomed Hochstein’s efforts to insulate Europe from Russian pipelines and called for more. Climate change and clean energy are “significant challenges,” Democratic Sen. Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire, chair of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Panel, Hochstein said, told the AP. “But I think our No. 1 priority here is defeating Putin and helping Ukraine.”
The Biden administration has struggled to mitigate two problems simultaneously: the global energy crunch and a rapidly warming Earth.
Shortages of oil and gas supplies are creating problems for European and Asian allies, threatening the United Economic Front against Russian President Vladimir Putin if they are not addressed. At home, fuel shortages have contributed to high gasoline prices, inflation and discontent threatening Democrats in the November midterm elections and the re-election of Biden.
But at the same time, scientists, climate advocates and the Biden administration say global governments are counting the time left over from the past few years to prevent even more devastating scenarios of climate change.
The rate at which the world is now burning through oil, natural gas and coal gives humans a 50-50 chance of exploding through the maximum average temperatures targeted in the Paris climate agreement within five years, the World Meteorological Organization said last month.
Some meteorologists fear that Biden and other world leaders are returning to the oil and gas drill-and-build outlook due to current energy shortages. While Biden’s climate efforts are elsewhere, they have sworn in the name of climate change.
Many were dismayed by the joint announcement this week by Biden and other leaders of the G-7 club of wealthy democracies that investing in gas infrastructure is once again OK as a “temporary response.”
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted after the G-7 announcement that “new funds for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure are delusional.” “Fossil fuels are not the answer. Renewable energy.”
Climate advocates are wary of what they see as Hochstein’s support for some infrastructure projects in Europe for liquefied natural gas.
Friends of the Earth refer to his oil and gas industry ties.
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Prior to resigning in 2020, he served as senior vice president for Houston-based LNG exporter Tellurian and a member of the advisory board for Ukraine-owned Naphthogaz. He described it in a newspaper column as a protest against corruption. In Hochstein’s government capacity, Biden entrusted him with top policy tasks, including working with oil giant Saudi Arabia during a period of frosty relations.
Hochstein described the US-backed LNG build-up in Europe as a way to prevent Russia from exerting power over Europe’s energy and economy.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the clean infrastructure to replace natural gas in the short or medium term,” Hochstein told the AP. “So it’s a tough and difficult balance. But we’re committed.
“And I agree with all those who say that this only reinforces the absolute need to accelerate the energy transition away from oil and gas,” he added.
Energy experts with environmental groups say there are cleaner ways to break down Russian gas.
Mark Brownstein, senior vice president, said the gas industry is moving fast to contain gas fires and vents and prevent natural gas leaks – two things the Biden administration has already pledged to work on – that results can be achieved faster without further damaging the atmosphere. Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Brownstein suggested one International Energy Agency finding The fossil fuel industry last year leaked or wasted more natural gas than all the gas used in Europe’s electricity sector.
Natural gas is mostly methane. Methane from agriculture and fossil fuels accounts for a quarter of all climate damage.
David Keough, president of the Environmental Defense Fund’s advocacy arm, said the days of natural gas being considered a “bridge fuel” have “come and gone.” He was director of public engagement at the White House Council on Environmental Quality during Biden’s first year.
“I think we need to go faster.”