On April 21, the first Europe-bound shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) left the Gulf of Mexico and crossed the Atlantic, a move that has been widely regarded as the first step in an impending gas war between the United States and Russia. As the theory goes, Russia has a grip on the European gas market, which it uses to bully its close neighbors and shush any major European states that push back on its geopolitical ambitions. U.S. LNG, it follows, will break Russia’s stranglehold. It is a cheaper and more reliable alternative. In turn, Russia will either lose market share or compete by lowering its prices. But either way, Europe wins, economically and geopolitically.
The economic argument is simplistic but not incorrect, although the geopolitical argument is dead wrong. It overstates the importance of U.S. LNG to Eurasian politics, and it reinforces the false impression that Europe’s energy security lies abroad. New supplies, from the United States or elsewhere, are good for consumers since they will further depress prices. But Europe’s energy security is in European hands alone; obsessing too much about what U.S. LNG can do risks distracting from the challenges, including strengthening Europe’s internal energy market, which remains woefully fragmented, especially in Eastern Europe.
By 2020, the United States could be sending roughly 80 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe a year—about two-thirds of the volume that Russia exported to Europe in 2015 and just under a third…..