Congressional progressives warn Biden, EU natural gas reliance may hurt climate goals

Twenty-two congressional Democrats on Thursday urged caution over the European Union’s plan to replace fossil fuel imports from Russia with liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. 

In a letter to President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the members warned that the transition must incorporate the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The letter came shortly after the EU announced a plan to replace the energy that it would normally import from Russia, including with 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from suppliers including the U.S.  

“While the Joint Statement included specific details for natural gas, it did not contain such specificity for developing clean, renewable energy. The Task Force must develop a plan to swiftly move the European Union and United States off fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy by 2035,” the members wrote. “It is critically important that our countries not lock ourselves into decades of further reliance on fossil fuels when climate science, environmental justice, and public health concerns necessitate a rapid transition towards full renewable energy.” 

Infrastructure buildouts for LNG, they noted, can take three years or more, potentially diverting resources from the transition to renewables at a critical moment. In the meantime, the letter cited analysis indicating the EU could replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports with renewables in less time. 

The letter, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), was also signed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), as well as Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Jesus Garcia (D-Ill.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), James McGovern (D-Mass.) and Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-D.C.). 

Von der Leyen earlier this month announced the EU would end fuel imports from Russia in the latest round of sanctions against the country over the invasion of Ukraine. The U.S., which has also ended oil imports from Russia, has stepped in to fill much of the gap with LNG exports. Russia exported 40 percent of European natural gas supplies in 2021, and the U.S. increased its own exports even before von der Leyen’s announcement. In March, weeks after the invasion, Washington authorized a further 720 million in LNG exports. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.