WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls to increase U.S. natural gas exports to counter Russian influence across Europe grew louder Tuesday amid concerns that Russia will move deeper into Ukraine.
Lithuania's energy minister, Jaroslav Neverovic, pleaded in emotional terms for U.S. help, saying his country is "100 percent" dependent on Russia for natural gas and has to pay 30 percent higher prices for it than other countries in Europe.
"This is not just unfair, this is abuse," Neverovic told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Lawmakers from both parties used the hearing to urge the Obama administration to speed up natural gas exports as a hedge against the possibility that Russia could cut off its supply of gas to Ukraine and other countries.
Four Central European nations — Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — made formal requests for U.S. exports as Moscow moved to annex part of Ukraine. Concerns about energy security threaten the region's residents on a daily basis, ambassadors to the four countries said in letters to House and Senate leaders.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, the Senate committee's new chairman, said U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, would be a "powerful geopolitical tool" to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to lower gas prices across Europe.
"We all know real competition in real open markets drives efficiency and lowers prices for everyone," Landrieu said. "The last thing Putin and his cronies want is competition from the United States of America in the energy race. Tyrants and dictators throughout history have had many reasons to fear revolutions, and this U.S. energy revolution is one they should all keep their eyes on."
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