It’s just past 2 pm in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to know

President Joe Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talk to the press about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at the US Mission in Brussels, Belgium, on March 25. (Evan Vucci/AP)

US President Joe Biden announced a new initiative meant to deprive Russian President Vladimir Putin of European energy profits used to “drive his war machine.”

Speaking in Brussels alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Biden said Russia was using its hold on providing Europe with oil and gas to “coerce and manipulate its neighbors.”

Biden said the United States would help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, and would ensure the continent had enough supplies for the next two winters.

“It’s going to take some time to adjust gas supply chains and infrastructure that was built for the last decade so we’re going to have to make sure the families in Europe can get through this winter and the next while we’re building an infrastructure for a diversified, resilient and clean energy future,” Biden said.

The panel, chaired by representatives from the White House and the European Commission, will be aimed toward finding alternative supplies of liquefied natural gas and reducing overall demand for natural gas moving forward.

Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and oil has proved a major sticking point in Western efforts to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. While the US banned Russian energy imports, Europe found it far more difficult to cut off its supplies.

“I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe, but it’s not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing,” Biden said.

The United States will work toward supplying Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas in 2022, in partnership with other nations, the White House said.

Senior administration officials said the 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas being sent to Europe is coming from multiple sources, including the United States and nations in Asia. But officials did not have an exact breakdown on where the gas was coming from.

The announcement Friday was the culmination of a US effort over the past months to identify alternate sources of energy for Europe, particularly in Asia. Officials said those efforts would continue through this year to hit the 15 billion cubic meter target.

One official said weaning Europe from Russian energy amounted to “replacing an unreliable supplier of LNG with a much more reliable supplier in the US.”

The group will also work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions through reducing methane emissions and using clean energy to power operations.

“This crisis also presents an opportunity. It’s a catalyst,” Biden said. “A catalyst that will drive the investments we need to double down on our clean energy goals and accelerate progress towards our net zeroes emissions future.”

Von der Leyen has hailed the joint energy task force as a “big step” in efforts to diversify gas supplies away from Russia.

“We want as Europeans to diversify away from Russia, towards suppliers that we trust that are friends and that are reliable and therefore, the US commitment to provide the European Union with additional at least 15 billion cubic meters of LNG this year is a big step in this direction, because this will replace the LNG supply we currently receive from Russia,” von der Leyen told the press conference.

The US has also committed to ensuring stable demand and supply for an additional 50 billion cubic meters of US liquefied natural gas until 2030, which von der Leyen said will replace one third of Russian gas supply to Europe.

This puts the bloc “right on track now,” she said, stressing the need for the EU to secure supplies “not just for next winter, but also for the years ahead.”

Furthermore, as the current gas infrastructure may be used in the future for clean hydrogen, it plays a part in the “decarbonizing of our economy,” she continued.

The cooperation between the EU and US “shows the power of our democracies,” and Biden’s presence in Europe sends a “powerful message to the world,” she added.

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