The United States and the United Kingdom hold a special relationship when it comes to politics and security. They have worked together in several areas of foreign affairs in previous decades and supported one another in times of political and economic turmoil. Now, the leaders of the two countries are once again joining forces to ensure the future of their energy security, as well as to advance efforts to reduce their reliance on Russian energy.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many countries worldwide are trying to wean themselves off Russian energy. Both the U.S. and Europe have introduced sanctions on Russian energy, and other products, with many countries around the globe following suit. However, with such a heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas, as well as petroproducts and uranium, this has been no easy feat. Prior to the war, around 50% of the EU’s natural gas supply came from Russia. Meaning last year, several European powers raced to find alternative suppliers and ramp up renewable energy production as an alternative.
Oil and gas shortages have taken place worldwide. Coupled with two years of the pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, energy prices soared in 2022. Consumers saw rising heating and electricity bills, with many governments stepping in to subsidize energy costs, as many Americans and Europeans were plunged into energy poverty. In the face of this crisis, we have seen several political attempts to respond to rising prices and accelerate the shift to green. In 2022, the U.K. introduced a windfall tax on oil and gas firms that were profiting from the price hikes. Similarly, in August, President Biden introduced the Inflation Reduction Act.
What is the Energy Security and Affordability Partnership?
In December, President Biden and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came to an agreement to help cut more ties with Russia and boost both their energy independence and security. The two countries are establishing an energy partnership – the Energy Security and Affordability Partnership – aimed at reducing prices and gaining greater stability in the energy sector, and alleviating the burden on the consumer and dependency on foreign powers. It will be overseen by a Joint Action Group led by representatives from the White House and the British government.
The partnership will support an increase in exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. to the U.K. Over the next year, the U.S. expects to send between 9 and 10 billion cubic meters of LNG to U.K. terminals, doubling its 2021 exports.
The U.K.’s strong import infrastructure makes this transaction possible. The two powers believe that this extra gas supply will help the U.K. and its European partners to replenish their gas storage and prepare for the next winter. This will be vital as gas shortages in the region are likely to continue well into 2023.
The U.K. released a statement about the new agreement, explaining how it will “drive work to reduce global dependence on Russian energy exports, stabilize energy markets and step-up collaboration on energy efficiency, nuclear and renewables.” In addition to ramping up LNG imports, the deal seeks to drive forward longer-term solutions for energy security. These include the development of the world’s green hydrogen market and the promotion of the nuclear power sector, in a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable alternatives.
What Are The Leaders Saying About This Upcoming Partnership?
Prime Minister Sunak stated of the move: “We have the natural resources, industry and innovative thinking we need to create a better, freer system and accelerate the clean energy transition. He added, “This partnership will bring down prices for British consumers and help end Europe’s dependence on Russian energy once and for all.”
Meanwhile, the White House stated: “Working with our allies, the United States and the United Kingdom commit to intensify our collaboration to support international energy security, affordability, and sustainability, as Europe reduces its dependence on Russian energy.” The partnership aims to enhance the two powers’ work with “G7 and G20 partners to drive forward a high-ambition energy transition agenda, including in the run-up to COP28, reducing the risk of future fossil fuel dependency in emerging markets and developing countries, avoiding any backtracking on previous commitments, enhancing and accelerating ambition toward the achievement of net-zero energy sectors, incorporating the implementation of the Glasgow Climate Pact, and ensuring energy security in the current geopolitical context,” according to the White House.
The deepening of ties between the U.S. and the U.K. on energy security could help to reduce western dependence on Russian oil and gas, and drive forward clean energy initiatives. The two powers acknowledge the ongoing need for a stable natural gas supply, as global dependence on fossil fuel remains strong. However, the partnership is also expected to enhance collaborative work on climate pledges. This will encourage other major powers to work alongside the U.S. and U.K. towards the long-term objective of curbing fossil fuel dependency through a green transition.
Felicity Bradstock is a freelance writer specializing in Energy and Industry. She has a Master’s in International Development from the University of Birmingham, UK, and is now based in Mexico City.
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