The US should not be allowed to dominate the global energy market while the EU suffers from the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has warned.
“The conflict in Ukraine must not end in American economic domination and a weakening of the EU,” he said, speaking at the National Assembly on Monday.
Le Maire said it’s unacceptable that Washington “sells its liquefied natural gas at four times the price than it sets for its own industrialists,” adding that “the economic weakening of Europe is not in anyone’s interest.”
“We must reach a more balanced economic relationship on the energy issue between our American partners and the European continent,” Le Maire said.
Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, Russia was the EU’s largest gas supplier, responsible for about 45% of the bloc’s gas imports. However, due to sanctions imposed on Moscow in recent months, Russian gas supplies to the EU have decreased significantly.
Facing an energy crisis, EU countries have rushed to fill their storage facilities – the level of reserves in underground storages was close to 91% as of Monday, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe. The storage sites are largely filled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), and are currently at their highest seasonal levels since at least 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. However, LNG imports from overseas cost much more than gas supplied via pipeline from Russia under long-term contracts, and energy prices in the bloc continue to rise.
The EU has considered setting a cap on natural gas prices for all suppliers, but a number of countries are opposed to this. Norway, a non-EU state but a partner in the European Economic Area (EEA) and one of EU’s major gas suppliers, recently warned that a step such as this could aggravate the situation, forcing exporters to divert supplies to other markets.