NATURAL GAS:

Ukraine aid bill aims to boost 'energy security' but doesn't call for LNG exports

A bill to be marked up this afternoon by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to address the crisis in Ukraine contains symbolic provisions highlighting the importance of energy security and directing the secretary of State to assist the country in diversifying its energy supplies, according to a draft obtained this morning by Greenwire.

The draft does not make any explicit policy changes affecting the export of liquefied natural gas or other energy commodities, but it does include a general endorsement of the idea that addressing the region's energy needs should be a part of the U.S. response to ongoing hostilities there.

The bill declares it is the policy of the United States "to explore ways for the United States Government to assist the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to diversify their energy sources and achieve energy security," according to the draft.

It also directs the secretary of State, subject to available appropriations, to "assist in diversifying Ukraine's economy, trade, and energy supplies, including at the national, regional, and local levels."

The committee markup is scheduled to begin this afternoon. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has said he plans to offer at least one amendment designed to speed LNG exports to U.S. allies, but it is unclear whether that measure could pass.

Even if LNG provisions were included in the package, industry experts have noted it would make little difference in the short term because of the several years necessary to bring LNG export terminals online. Still, supporters of the move say it is as much about signaling to the Russians that they will not always be able to exploit their control over gas and other resources to exert sway over other countries.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the committee's ranking member, did not commit to supporting Barrasso's amendment, saying he needed to see the particular language first. But he did say he would support ways to adjust U.S. energy policy "to tip the balance in our favor" in response to Russian activities in Ukraine. He also said he supports "in principle" the notion of using LNG exports to support U.S. allies.

The bulk of the aid package provides loan guarantees for Ukraine and pledges assistance in recovering assets linked to corruption by the former ousted regime. It authorizes $50 million for civil society assistance and another $100 million for security. And it contains a controversial International Monetary Fund reform that has been pushed by the Obama administration but resisted by House Republicans.

Twitter: @nickjuliano | Email: njuliano@eenews.net