As published in the Lakeland Ledger.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing America and our allies to determine how to thwart Vladimir Putin’s goal of resurrecting the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s strategy of implementing banking sanctions on Russia will not succeed. Energy sanctions must be imposed as well. The U.S. must unshackle our domestic energy sector to provide the world an alternative to Russian oil and gas.
Russia’s energy industry is the lifeblood of its war machine. It is the third largest producer of petroleum and the second largest producer of dry natural gas. While Russia’s energy sector is vast, it is also its Achilles Heel. Fossil fuels comprise as much as 60 percent of all Russian exports, and their economy is highly dependent on this revenue. Russia’s European neighbors are some of its biggest energy customers, putting NATO members like Germany in the precarious position of choosing between affordable gas or standing up to Moscow’s aggression.
Fortunately for our European neighbors, there is an alternative. In 2019, U.S. natural gas production reached an all-time high and America became a net energy exporter for the first time since 1952. As the world’s top producer of fossil fuels, the U.S. has the domestic capacity to not only meet our own energy needs, but also provide our European allies an alternative to Russian gas. There is precedent for such a strategy, considering the Trump Administration for years lobbied European allies to import more American gas as an alternative to Russian energy.
Before the U.S. can provide for Europe, the Biden Administration must end its war on American energy. One of Biden’s first actions as president was to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline and suspend Trump-era oil and gas drilling leases. While we can’t build new LNG terminals or full-length pipelines overnight, America and our energy allies can ramp up production. While the U.S. is currently a net importer of oil, experts predict we could increase production by over a million bpd in 2022. We should work with the European Union to implement punitive sanctions immediately, and the Biden White House should cut red tape and provide certainty to American energy producers. These steps would unleash American assets needed to help offset Russian energy.
Providing Europe an affordable, no-strings-attached alternative to Russian gas serves a dual purpose. First, it frees our European allies from having to choose between caring for their own energy needs or standing up to Russian aggression. Second, it will starve the Russian war machine in the long-term and potentially halt Putin’s grand plan. While Russia is a problem for the U.S., China is also a large threat to American interests. We will need Europe to take a much larger role in standing up to Russia to deter both adversaries. The easiest way to do that is to provide an American alternative to Russian energy. The first step in that process is ending Biden’s war on the U.S. fossil fuel industry.
Congressman Scott Franklin represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District. He is a former Naval Aviator and a member of the House Armed Services Committee.