White House plays down role of natural gas policy in Ukraine crisis

by Reuters
Friday, 7 March 2014 19:39 GMT

(Updates with quotes)

ON BOARD AIR FORCE ONE, March 7 (Reuters) - The White House on Friday appeared to play down the possibility of changing U.S. policy on exporting natural gas to address the situation in Ukraine.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One that policy changes would not have an immediate effect and noted that natural gas stocks in Europe were above normal levels because of a mild winter.

"There is no indication currently that there's much risk of a natural gas shortage in the region," he said.

Europe and Ukraine are key export markets for Russian natural gas.

Earnest noted that there were six licenses approved by the Department of Energy related to U.S. natural gas exports. The projects for delivering gas would not be completed until the end of next year, he said.

"So proposals to try to respond to the situation in Ukraine that are related to our policy on exporting natural gas would not have an immediate effect," he said.

Earnest noted that Russia prides itself on being a reliable supplier of natural gas to other countries. That reputation would be jeopardized if it turned off the taps during the Ukraine crisis.

"Russia currently yields about $50 billion a year in revenue from exporting natural gas, so ending that kind of relationship with Europe would have significant financial consequences for Russia as well," he said. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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