America’s latest ‘oil war’ is fueling global warming – Workers World
Is the war on Russia unleashed by the US and NATO, unfolding on the battlefield of Ukraine, another ‘war for oil’ – or a war for control of global sales? natural gas?
During an emergency NATO summit in Brussels on March 25, President Joe Biden announced that the United States would accelerate exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, sending 15 billion meters additional cubic (bcm) of LNG on offshore tankers in 2022, in addition to 2021 exports of 22 Bcm. Biden said US LNG exports will continue to grow through 2030, averaging 50 bcm to Europe per year.
Ahead of Biden’s NATO speech, the US Department of Energy issued two long-term orders on March 16 giving Cheniere Energy projects in Louisiana and Texas “additional flexibility to export the equivalent of 0, 72 billion m3 of LNG per day” to “any country with which the United States does business”. no free trade agreement, including all of Europe. Despite the fact that US LNG exporters were already at or near maximum capacity, DOE approval allows every US LNG project to export to any country not subject to US sanctions.
Hydraulic fracturing and the 2014 coup in Ukraine
In 2014, the United States funded and armed a right-wing coup in Ukraine. Even before that, the United States was promoting exports of American liquefied natural gas to Europe as a means of weaning the EU from its dependence on Russian gas imports. The United States moved to secure global markets for its more expensive and environmentally hazardous frac gas, even before the infrastructure was fully in place to accommodate this trade.
For years, with limited success, the US energy industry has pressured Ukraine and other European countries to open up to fracking. With domestic overproduction of fractured gas and US revenues of around $3 per mmBtu (million British thermal units), the industry was eager to export LNG to markets offering higher rates of return. In 2013, natural gas in Europe was selling for between $11 and $13 per mmBtu and in Southeast Asia for $18 per mmBtu or more. (tinyurl.com/mrxn3m4b)
Energy industry PR firms have been pushing the message that Americans must come to terms with the environmental risks stemming from fracking for the United States to achieve “energy independence.” Yet in April 2014, following the February coup in Ukraine, two bills were introduced in the US Congress aimed at accelerating US LNG exports to Europe.
Pressure blocked Nord Stream 2 pipeline
In 2011, Russia and Germany cooperated to start construction of a major direct gas pipeline from Russia’s northwestern border to Germany. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline would have cemented the growing economic relationship between Russia and Germany, two US economic competitors.
Completed in September 2021, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was scheduled to open in early 2022. In late 2021, the US began to ramp up pressure on Ukraine to join NATO, simultaneously issuing daily announcements about Russian plans to invade Ukraine. By imposing the most extreme economic sanctions on Russia and demanding respect from EU countries, including Germany, the United States succeeded in blocking the opening of Nord Stream 2, which further pushed Russia’s defensive war.
LNG exports setback to limit global warming
In calling for increased LNG exports to Europe, the Biden administration has abandoned any pretense of enacting major climate legislation. Bowing to pressure from the energy industry, he published a “fact sheet” encouraging the expansion of LNG exports to the EU, saying this is “not in conflict with the net zero climate targets that we are aiming for” and that LNG is a “catalyst” for doubling investments in clean energy.
Biden’s March 25 statement sparked immediate concern from global climate activists, who see it as a serious setback to efforts to phase out the use of fossil fuels to limit global warming. Miles Jones, managing director of policy at Food & Water Watch, called on Biden to “strongly reject any plans to accelerate gas export terminals here in the United States. Polluting corporations are brazenly taking advantage of this crisis to secure decades of dirty energy addiction, which will further devastate frontline communities and abandon hope for bold climate action.
The production of liquefied natural gas generates higher levels of carbon emissions than any other energy source except coal. While Russian gas would have flowed through the already built Nord Stream 2 pipeline, US LNG shipments will require the construction of new terminals and pipelines. These fossil fuel infrastructure projects will take years to build and will be used for a long time.
Somini Sengupta, global climate correspondent for the NY Times, wrote: “US export gas buyers are on long-term contracts. Export terminals are already shipping all the gas they can. Not all EU countries have import terminals to absorb more LNG. If they were to build more, it could lock in gas addiction for 10-15 years. (March 25, 2022)
Promoting LNG exports would make Europe more dependent on US energy, while prolonging the world’s dependence on a fossil fuel from hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. Fracking releases toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the environment, wastes millions of gallons of vital water resources, and contaminates the air and water in communities adjacent to fractured wells. Serious health problems and deaths have been linked to exposure to fracking chemicals and waste.
Increased LNG exports would significantly set back efforts to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources – solar and wind power. Compared to renewables, LNG production emits 14 times more carbon than solar power and 50 times more carbon than wind power. Resources invested in more production and distribution of fossil fuels means less funding for research, development and distribution of renewable energy sources.
Methane gas emissions more powerful than CO2
When natural gas in any form is burned for energy, it releases carbon into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. But environmental activists see LNG as particularly problematic for the climate.
“At every stage of its life cycle – from extraction to processing to storage and transportation – LNG emits methane,” said Marisa Guerrero of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who found that methane (CH4) was 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). ) during the first 20 years following the emissions.
LNG must be cooled to temperatures of minus 259 F and maintained at this extreme temperature throughout its transportation – whether by ship, train or truck – a very energy-intensive process. Warming it up to normal temperature requires even more energy. In total, LNG is responsible for nearly twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as regular natural gas.
A Feb. 4 study by Duke University found hundreds of very large, previously unreported methane leaks released at oil and natural gas production sites around the world. In 2021, Duke’s Drew Shindell, writing for a United Nations climate report, found that reducing methane emissions was the most cost-effective way to slow global warming. (tinyurl.com/y2ydydjt)
Risks for communities of color
Fossil fuel facilities, including those built to process and ship LNG, are disproportionately located near low-income neighborhoods and in communities of color. They range from Delaware River Basin locations in New Jersey and Maryland to Gulf Coast cities in Louisiana and Texas, where the majority of LNG ports have been built without concern for safety and well-being. local communities. The NRDC found, “Fourteen percent of the climate footprint of LNG comes from gas leaks, flaring, or intentional venting during production and transportation.”
These export terminals handle large quantities of other fuels even more volatile than LNG. With the large amount of gas stored in a single LNG tank, any breach by fire would become an unimaginable catastrophe.
Transporting LNG to and from export terminals is risky. The Trump administration has authorized the rail transport of highly explosive LNG. Trains with up to 100 specialized wagons carrying LNG pass through major metropolitan areas daily, putting millions of people along the routes at risk. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has delayed Trump’s policy reversal and has yet to permanently ban LNG “bomb trains.” The more the Biden administration encourages LNG exports, the less likely a ban is.
However, sabotaging Russian gas exports to Germany was never the end game for the United States. The ultimate goal is to control Russia’s vast natural resources. American strategists, war planners, corporate media, and politicians have created a situation where the Ukrainian people have been put in harm’s way to serve the warmongering corporate interests of the Pentagon. Ukraine’s sovereignty has never been the main issue.
For decades, fracking has put American workers and communities at risk. The expansion of LNG exports, in addition to the war, is making the situation worse for everyone.