US gas boom: A tool against Russian coercion

In early 2009 Russian Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine over unpaid bills and Europe fears the country may cut the gas procurement in the fresh crisis with Kyiv.

The United States, with its abundant supplies of natural gas, would seem to have an easy answer to Europe’s fears that a strong response to Russia’s rapid takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region could prompt Vladimir Putin to shut down gas lines that keep European homes warm, factories humming and electricity flowing.

Trouble is: Right now there’s no way to get meaningful American supplies across the Atlantic Ocean.

Turning U.S. natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG), a process that makes the fuel transportable by ship, is very expensive.

Beyond that the U.S. government has – until recently – been stingy with permits to build those facilities. And regulations make it difficult to sell U.S. gas to nations that aren’t in free trade compacts with Washington.

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