By JIM SNYDER and JULIANNA GOLDMAN
The Obama administration will consider the turmoil in Ukraine
as it weighs whether to approve additional exports of natural
gas to blunt Russias dominance as an energy supplier.
Geopolitics and the effect on global markets are issues the
department considers in reviewing applications from companies
to build natural gas export terminals, Energy Secretary
Ernest Moniz said Friday.
Maybe we will give some additional weight to the
geopolitical criterion going forward, Moniz said at a
Bloomberg government breakfast with reporters
and editors in Washington. But we will never eliminate
for sure the issue of implications for the domestic
The Energy Department is responsible for evaluating natural
gas exports to countries that dont have free-trade
agreements with the US, a list that includes the entire
an Union and Japan. Exports
to countries with free-trade deals are approved after a
European Union nations get about 30% of their natural gas
from Russia. Moniz said gas and oil flows have not been
interrupted in the weeks since Russia moved to annex
the Ukraines Crimea peninsula.
The whole relationship with Russia is something that we
will see evolve over these next weeks and months, Moniz
said. Its obvious that the relationship is under
The Energy Department is the lead US agency responsible for
implementing a US-Russia swords-into-plowshares
program to convert 68 tons of weapons grade plutonium into
fuel for power plants.
He said so far security agreements with Russia havent
been affected by its annexation of Crimea.
On both energy and our nuclear security, we think
its very important to maintain the relationship
with Russia, Moniz said. On the other hand, we will
have to see how that evolves.
Moniz said his departments review of Keystone is in
progress. The $5.4 billion pipeline to connect Albertas
oil sands with US refiners has become for environment
al groups a symbol of
the administrations commitment to reducing the threat
of climate change.
While the State Department is leading the review because
Keystone would cross an international border, the Energy
Department is one of eight agencies that play an advisory
role. Its review focuses on whether Keystone will relieve
constraints in the US energy distribution network, Moniz
said. Were actively working on that, he
Approving natural gas exports is among the most sensitive
political issues Monizs department faces. The drive by
energy companies to step up overseas sales is resisted by
some lawmakers and manufacturers like Dow Chemical that worry
unfettered exports will raise domestic prices.
Moniz said costs remain a key component of the
departments review. He also said US energy security
concerns dont end at our borders.
As House Republicans and some Senate Democrats push bills to
expedite approval of the export terminals, Moniz said there
arent many quick fixes.
Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana could
start exporting gas by the end of next year, Moniz said. Due
to the time it takes to construct the facilities
, more gas wont
start flowing from other project
s until probably 2018 at
the earliest, he said.
Physically there is no way of picking up the
pace, on exporting natural gas, Moniz said.
The department has conditionally approved five other
applications from companies including Dominion Resources to
build multi-billion-dollar terminals to export natural gas
cooled to a liquid for shipment on ocean tankers.
s, which include
Dominions Cove Point facility in Maryland, face
al and safety reviews.
If all six facilities
they could export a total of 8.7 billion cubic feet/day of
gas. That level would make the US the largest exporter of gas
today, Moniz said. The US uses more than 60 billion cubic
feet/day, he said.
Its not like were just nibbling around the
edges, Moniz said.
The situation in Russia so far doesnt warrant the
release of additional oil from the US Strategic Petroleum
I dont think anyone is saying the oil markets are
badly supplied, Moniz said.
The Energy Department this month sold 5 million bbl from the
reserves for $495 million as part of a pre-planned test of
its ability to move oil to the market. It was the first
release from the reserve since 2012.
The timing of this was not Ukraine, he said.