Feb 3, 2022 - Energy & Environment

European crises and policy give natural gas staying power

Illustration of a circular gas burner as the stars on the EU flag.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

European climate policy moves and the Ukraine crisis together show why environmentalist campaigns against natural gas face headwinds on both sides of the Atlantic.

Driving the news: The European Commission on Wednesday included certain forms of gas and nuclear power in the "taxonomy for sustainable activities" meant to guide private investment.

  • It says gas-fired power qualifies as sustainable if plant emissions are below certain thresholds and that it should displace coal.

What's next: It drew criticism from some activists and European states. But killing it requires a majority of European Parliament members or over 70% of European Council states, and reports in the BBC, the FT and elsewhere call that unlikely.

What they're saying: "It makes a mockery of the EU’s claims to global leadership on climate and the environment," Greenpeace EU's Ariadna Rodrigo said in a statement.

  • But Mairead McGuinness, the EU's financial services commissioner, said the bloc must "use all the tools at our disposal" to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

The big picture: The battle comes as the Biden administration is aiming to bolster liquefied natural gas supplies to Europe from other countries — and highlighting U.S. exports — to check Russian energy influence.

Quick take: Responses to Russia's potential moves against Ukraine are underscoring LNG's geopolitical importance to the U.S.

  • That's why, contra the aims of some U.S. green groups, Biden officials are unlikely to curtail growing LNG exports and infrastructure that has made the U.S. the world's largest supplier.
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