Fletcher alumnae Anita Orbán (MALD 01, PhD 07), Hungary’s ambassador-at-large for energy security, and her counterpart for the Czech Republic, Vacláv Bartuska, offer this excellent OpEd piece in Friday’s Washington Post: Central Europe is a ready market for U.S. gas.

Here’s an excerpt:

While U.S. officials ponder their approach to Syria, the larger Middle East and Central Asia, they need look no farther than Central Europe and the “Visegrád Four” (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) to find some of the United States’ most passionate allies. Our countries’ commitment to the transatlantic relationship is unwavering. But we remain vulnerable to “energy diplomacy” because of our overwhelming reliance on Russian gas and oil. Nations in Central Europe import 50 to 100 percent of their gas from Russia. In comparison, Western Europe imports only 17 percent.

Energy Security Fletcher

Gazprom building, Moscow, Russia. Photo: www.flickr.com/photos/aalien/

Our region has done much to modernize its inherited energy-transmission systems, which, until recently, reflected the Soviet era’s east-west supply routes. New pipeline connections and other technological improvements make the Central European energy infrastructure more flexible and more secure than it was even four years ago. Yet Gazprom’s monopolistic position in supplying most of our countries makes gas prices for millions in our region many times higher than in the United States.

The gas crises of 2006 and 2009 underscored that the Visegrád countries remain more vulnerable to supply disruptions than any other European nations. We have long recognized the importance of reducing dependence on a single source of gas and are eager to achieve real competition. The U.S. natural gas boom raises the prospect of a reliable trade partner for our region.

But as things stand, U.S. regulations make exporting gas cumbersome, unpredictable and strategically counterproductive. U.S. companies seeking to export gas to countries that do not have free-trade agreements with the United States are subject to lengthy bureaucratic procedures. Almost two dozen export license applications are pending; only a few have been granted in the past three years. This regulatory obstacle is the main bottleneck to increased U.S. gas trade with NATO members and Japan.

You can read the rest of Ambassador Orbán’s article here. Also, learn more about the sweeping changes to the global energy landscape by watching video excerpts from last year’s Fletcher London symposium The Global Energy Security Landscape, including remarks from Ambassador Orbán and Fletcher faculty Kelly Sims Gallagher (MALD ’00, PhD ’03), director of Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP).

The shale gas revolution in the U.S. raises a number of questions for global political, business and environmental leaders. As the international community grapples with the implications, Fletcher faculty and alumni will help to increase our understanding of the issues and offer solutions.

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