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Trump urges Europe to embrace LNG, reject climate pessimism

U.S. President Donald Trump urged European nations to embrace American energy imports and not to worry about "prophets of doom" on climate change, saying technological innovation would bring solutions.

Taking the stage Jan. 21 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after a speech by climate activist Greta Thunberg, Trump boasted of U.S. achievements in the economic and energy spheres and downplayed "predictions of the apocalypse."

The president also talked about European dependence on Russian natural gas imports via the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, construction of which has been held up by U.S. sanctions, and said LNG imports from the U.S. could help solve Europe's energy issues. Trump noted that U.S. gas supplies were increasingly available thanks to the energy revolution brought about by shale while making no mention of renewable energy sources. He said U.S. oil and gas are saving American families money in lower electricity bills and at the pump.

"The U.S. no longer needs to import energy," Trump said. "With an abundance of American natural gas now available, our European allies no longer have to be vulnerable to unfriendly energy suppliers either."

"We urge our friends in Europe to use America's vast supply and achieve true energy security," he said. "With U.S. companies and researchers leading the way, we are on the threshold of virtually unlimited reserves of energy including from traditional fuels, LNG, clean coal, next-generation nuclear power and gas hydrate technologies."

Referring to concerns about carbon emissions, Trump said innovation and technology could overcome all challenges. He took an apparent swipe at political rivals in the U.S. with a mention of "radical socialists" out to destroy the economy.

"To embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse ... the heirs of yesterday's foolish fortune-tellers," Trump said. "We understand what the pessimists refuse to see, that a growing and vibrant market economy focused on the future lifts the human spirit and excites creativity strong enough to overcome any challenge by far. We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it."

Trump added that the U.S. is joining a World Economic Forum plan to plant a trillion trees.

In contrast, Thunberg, an activist who has helped make climate change an international issue as she chides world leaders to do more to prevent it, said time is running out. She said people are already dying due to climate change, and the world can only afford to emit CO2 at current levels for another eight years if temperature increases are to be kept within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Every fraction of a degree matters," Thunberg said.

Since U.S. LNG exports from the Lower 48 began in February 2016, Europe has received 28.3 billion cubic meters, or Bcm, of natural gas equivalent, according to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics. In terms of impacts to market share, Algeria and Norway have taken much of the direct hit from the U.S. cargoes, rather than Russia, which remains the mainstay supplier to Germany and its eastern neighbors.

However, LNG volumes from the U.S. to Europe have risen quickly thanks to increased U.S. export capacity and Europe playing the role of market-of-last-resort for surplus cargoes in an oversupplied global market.

In 2019, U.S. LNG exports to Europe totaled 20.3 Bcm of gas equivalent, up from 4.7 Bcm the previous year, putting U.S. supplies on a par with Europe's pipeline imports from Algeria, which totaled 21 Bcm in 2019, according to Platts Analytics data.

The main markets for U.S. LNG since February 2016 have been Spain and the U.K., which have imported 6.04 Bcm and 4.98 Bcm, respectively. Both countries are easily reached from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and have plenty of import capacity. The other main importers to date have been France at 3.82 Bcm, Turkey at 2.68 Bcm, Italy at 2.71 Bcm, Portugal at 2.66 Bcm and the Netherlands at 2.43 Bcm. Smaller volumes have landed in Belgium, Greece, Lithuania, Malta and Poland.

Nick Coleman and Stuart Elliott are reporters with S&P Global Platts. S&P Global Market Intelligence and S&P Global Platts are owned by S&P Global Inc.