The annexation of Crimea by Russia has brought into focus an important aspect of the climate change debate. The US and the EU are trying to respond to the Russian annexation by using totally ineffective sanctions. Putin must be laughing at our pathetic response. The Russians are already threatening other parts of Ukraine. If successful, they may well go after other lost Eastern European territories. Experience during the 1980s, however, shows that Russia will respond to pressure on its lifeblood (oil and natural gas exports). That’s how they lost Ukraine and other former territories in the first place.
If the US had really pushed shale gas and oil hard in recent years–like opening up Federal lands, getting rid of the harmful export controls on both of them, and pushing new pipelines and LNG exports–the US would now actually be able to offer effective economic sanctions. By flooding the world with cheap natural gas and not so cheap but plentiful shale oil the US could now hurt the Russians by reducing their oil and gas revenue. But if both the US and EU had really pushed shale oil and gas, the US and the EU might actually have been able to to use sanctions to directly reduce buying of Russian oil and gas, which could have resulted in considerable economic damage to Russia. But since this was not done, such measures would currently greatly damage Western Europe, which has been frightened by environmentalists into generally avoiding fracking to increase shale gas and oil output.
But better late than never. Many environmental organizations have gone on record as opposing fracking, favoring keeping “our nation’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground,” and now opposing the approved LNG export Cove Point (and presumably any other LNG export) project. LNG is the only way the US can economically export natural gas outside North America. Yet it could still be an explicit and tangible threat to Russia’s lifeblood that would influence their actions in Eastern Europe. As Strassel points out, it is time for the Obama Administration to abandon its environmental supporters and take immediate and very visible actions to at least support LNG exports. Even the Washington Post agrees with regard to LNG exports, but of course fails to point out the “environmental” reasons why the Administration is presumably holding back.
The continuing resistance of environmental groups to the use of fracking and now LNG exports is getting in the way of important US national security interests. The Administration needs to clearly and openly disown the environmentalists on shale gas development on Federal and private land and LNG exports and let Russia understand that their actions are the reason. It needs to do the same on shale oil as well by encouraging development on Federal lands and approving new oil pipelines but that may be asking too much.