US names energy security tsar
The US State Department has named Amos Hochstein, a former member of the board at the Ukrainian state oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy, as its energy security tsar.
“His immediate focus will be implementation of measures to reduce the risks posed by the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” Anthony Blinken said August 10.
Hochstein held similar roles in previous administrations, rising from the ranks of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs to serve as the special envoy on international energy affairs under former president Barack Obama in 2014.
In 2017, he became a member of the supervisory board at Naftogaz, but resigned in 2020 citing corrupt business practices. His name was referenced in various capacities during investigations into the pressure put on Ukrainian leaders by members of former president Donald Trump’s inner circle, namely former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The second string of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, which delivers Russian gas to Europe via the Baltic Sea, is nearly complete. That pipeline is a source of contention for Western powers wary of the Kremlin’s grip over the European energy sector.
Polish state energy company PGNiG in early August said it was seeking to block certification of the pipeline which would mean it could not flow, though efforts to thwart further development are relatively moot considering the pipeline is nearly complete.
Germany and the US in July agreed on a deal that will allow the Nord Stream 2 project to go ahead, but vowed to punish Russia if it uses the pipeline as a political weapon.
In a joint statement, Berlin and Washington said they were "steadfast in their support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and chosen European path," and were "united in their determination to hold Russia to account for its aggression and malign activities by imposing costs via sanctions and other tools."
If there is such aggression, Germany will take steps to limit Russia's energy exports both at national and EU levels, "to ensure that Russia will not misuse any pipeline, including Nord Stream 2, to achieve aggressive political ends by using energy as a weapon."
Although the US is a major LNG exporter and could compete against Russia for the European market, all the terminals are privately owned and the offtakers have control over where the LNG is sold. This means the highest bidder wins, and for much of the time that has been Asia.