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Why Putin loves America’s Greens

By The Wall Street Journal
July 15, 2020 Anno Domini

Democratic politicians have talked tough on Russia since Donald Trump won the Presidency. But when it comes to challenging Moscow, other progressive prior- ities always seem to take pre- cedence.

Last week the Danish government granted surprisingly fast regulatory approval to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a 750-mile channel that will bring Siberian natural gas under the Baltic Sea into Germany. This belies the stereotype of Europeans as regula- tion-obsessed greens. While the U.S. is eager to sell more gas to the Continent, Russian fuel simply costs less. Much of the blame goes to the left’s legal and regulatory war on American energy.

The U.S. and much of Europe oppose Nord Stream 2, but Berlin has put economic inter- ests over collective security. This helps Rus- sian President Vladimir Putin, whose domestic standing has been hurt by Covid-19 and lower energy prices. It also gives the dictator more leverage over the Continent’s democracies. About 38 per cent of natural gas imports into Europe came from Russia in 2019, according to EU data. The new pipeline would add 55 billion cubic meters of annual capacity, doubling the current route volume.

Some countries are willing to pay a pre- mium to avoid supporting Mr. Putin. Russia’s share of Polish gas imports fell to 60 per cent in 2019 from 89 per cent three years earlier. With liquefied-natural gas from Qatar and the U.S. and non- Russian pipelines, Poland could forgo all pur- chases from Moscow within a few years.

LENINGRAD REGION, RUSSIA – JUNE 5, 2019: Workers at the construction site of a section of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline near Kingisepp, Leningrad Region. (Photo by Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

The best way to bring more countries along is to make American gas more competitive, which happens to be politically popular. Joe Biden, who has been hostile to fossil fuels but would like to win Pennsylvania, said last week that “fracking is not going to be on the chopping block.” Mr. Biden sent different signals during the Democratic primaries, so the question is whether he’ll stand up to the left, which has failed to stop oil and gas projects through tra- ditional politics. But its strategy of lawsuits and regulation to choke fossil-fuel producers has been more effective.

After years of Barack Obama’s obstruction, President Trump approved the Keystone XL pipeline. But environmentalists challenged a 2017 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. In April federal Judge Brian Morris issued a na- tionwide injunction against Keystone, ostensi- bly over endangered-species issues. The uncer- tainty could affect other pipelines, too.

This month federal Judge James Boasberg ordered the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been operating for three years, to shut down for an environmental review. Duke Energy and Dominion Energy recently canceled the 600- mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, citing legal and regulatory uncertainty. More will follow. Mr. Putin is no doubt pleased.

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