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GOP politicians using Crimea crisis to raise gas company profits

Republican politicians like Rep. Cory Gardner are trying to cash in on the Ukraine crisis by helping gas companies increase their profits.
Republican politicians like Rep. Cory Gardner are trying to cash in on the Ukraine crisis by helping gas companies increase their profits.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans do not need a reason to blast President Obama. It is as reflexive as breathing and they can do it in their sleep. The Ukrainian crisis is no exception. Republican pundits and politicians have blamed the entire situation on Obama, and they are calling for measures that sound good but are really bad.

Some pundits and GOP members of Congress are going beyond Obama bashing. They are using the crisis to advocate policies that would make billions of dollars of extra profits for billionaires like the Koch Brothers — profits they can use to elect right-wing Republicans nationwide, but would hurt consumers.

Groups created and funded by Charles Koch, chief executive of Koch Industries, have demanded that America respond to the crisis in Crimea with LNG exports. “A serious president would also fast-forward permits on new liquefied natural gas terminals that could ship to Europe,” claims a column posted by Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-run advocacy group. A similar argument is advanced by the Koch-founded Cato Institute.

The Kochs have deeply expanded their footprint into the natural gas market, and are now actively engaged in shipping, sourcing, and marketing LNG, in addition to becoming a leader in developing financial instruments related to natural gas.

Lobbyists and politicians like with close ties to the fossil fuel industry, like Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), are joining the Kochs using the crisis in Crimea to demand that the United States gas exports as a quick fix for the crisis. Led by the American Petroleum Institute, a coalition of Fortune 500 energy companies, lobbyists have been pushing the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for years in order to raise gas prices that have fallen due to the fracking boom.

On the surface, this sounds great. If we export natural gas, Ukraine and Europe would no longer buy Russian gas, thereby punishing Putin for his bad behavior. What a great idea — not!

The truth is this so-called solution would cost billions of dollars, much of it from taxpayers through subsidies to big oil. It would require years of development to build the facilities and pipelines, and it would not significantly impact Russia’s role as a major supplier for the region, or on the global markets. Russia has many other places to sell its gas besides Ukraine.

Rather, according to experts, the move would simply increase gas prices for American consumers while enriching companies involved in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade. That has been the goal of the gas industry for years as well as the politicians they own.

This is a Trojan horse if there ever was one. Republicans are using Crimea to justify the immediate building of the Keystone XL pipeline even though it would carry Canadian tar sand oil, not natural gas. Some even want us to allow fracking in National Parks — all to help Ukraine.

There have been six bills introduced in Congress in the past two weeks aimed at speeding permits required to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), and de-regulating the gas industry. The lead legislation in the Republican-controlled House is sponsored by Cory Gardner who is challenging Colorado’s Democratic Senator Mark Udall in November.

By letting Gardner be the gas hero, it is a double play for the Koch Brothers. They get a new vote in the Senate if Gardner wins, and they pad their already bloated bank accounts.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last Wednesday the United States doesn't have the physical capacity to export LNG. Furthermore, we can not determine where LNG exports go. The market will determine that, and the LNG would go where the price is highest, and given the distance, Ukraine is probably not the leading candidate.

Unfortunately, the Kochs have the money to run slick ads selling their money-making ruse to the public and the voters. Most people buy the stuff paid actors and actresses say and they spend no time digging deeper to find the truth. The public prefers the sugar pills over the truth.

We do not need to export gas for fracking to continue to grow. By keeping our gas here, it will keep prices for Americans low. If we are going to endure the environmental damage from fracking, we at least deserve cheap gas.

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