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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

With Russian invasion of Ukraine, Texas’ Permian Basin is crucial to securing democracy

As Russia invades Ukraine and conjures European memories of autocrats rolling through buffer states to attack the West, Texas is playing a key, if quiet, role in defending democracy.

Russia has threatened to cut off natural gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine, and U.S. shipments are filling in demand for this critical fuel for power generation. And the lion’s share of those natural gas shipments comes from liquefied natural gas facilities on the Texas coast, drawing much of that gas from Texas fields.

These fuel resources give Western leaders leverage in challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on free Ukrainians. The U.S. and NATO don’t have to appease a major oil producing state to ensure that folks back home have gasoline for their cars or heat for their homes.

This experience should change the way the Biden administration treats the oil and gas industry. Rather than backing a policy to reduce and eventually halt fossil fuel production, the administration must switch to a more nuanced policy of clear, fair regulation to ensure that the industry is healthy and meets appropriate environmental standards. The Permian Basin is a national security asset, and the U.S. must treat it with care and respect.

The data already show the Texas industry coming to the rescue. Russia supplies around 40% of the EU’s natural gas, according to reporting by The Washington Post. But a report from energy experts at IHS CERA shows that in January, the portion of EU gas coming from Russian pipelines dropped to 17%.

IHS CERA reports that LNG imports are filling in, accounting for 34% of EU gas in January, and the U.S. accounted for the largest portion of those imports. The report calculates that LNG imports could cover natural gas needs for the winter, even if Russia reduces pipeline flows even more.

The downside would be a significant rise in energy prices. Already on Thursday, oil prices were up, with Brent crude futures rising above $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.

If Texas increases our production to supply Europe with natural gas, proper regulation becomes all the more critical. The federal government must regulate oil and gas as a precious resource, rather than a pollutant.

But also, both the U.S. and the Texas Railroad Commission must ensure fossil fuels are produced in environmentally sensitive, conservation-conscious ways to build trust with both U.S. and European consumers. No more earthquakes, flammable tap water, or inexplicable natural gas plumes detected by satellites in outer space.

We cannot afford to waste natural gas through leaks or flaring, nor can we afford any more damage to public trust in the industry and regulators. Texas natural gas keeps the lights on here, and, now, in Europe. Proper regulation is a matter of national security and global democracy.

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