Whew, can you smell that? Of course you can’t now, but wait a few minutes. There it is…there it is. Now let it settle. A ninja just passed some strong smelling evidence of garlic, grain and milk from the night before…and then disappeared.
Silencers are the deadliest of all gasses. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve eaten something that comes back to surprise you in a gastrointestinal kind of way. I call it the dirty ghost. It’s the noxious trail of tears that you leave in your wake as you cleverly maneuver yourself away from the scene of the flatulence crime.
Even stink would say that stinks!
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about another gas.
Russia and the United Stated are the world’s top producers of the stuff. The United States, thanks to new technology (see fracking) has recently unseated the one-time champ of all time. Russia still has the upper hand in the global economy though as they are obligated, by contract, to provide natural gas to all of Western Europe. Without their gas supplies many parts of Western Europe would simply freeze during the often harsh winters.
Now, before you get started, the United States, under then President George W. Bush, because of a belief that our supplies were dwindling, considered importing natural gas from Russia. We had a real world problem. How do we prevent half of our country from freezing if we run out of natural gas during a harsh winter? Russia was a practical solution, albeit a risky political alliance.
Now the suits in Washington have started their collective finger pointing and ideological saber rattling against what Russia is doing in Crimea. By referendum, albeit true or fake, Ukrainians in Crimea, most of who are ethnic Russians, have voted to rejoin the Russian Union. In other words they want to become part of Mother Russia again.
So what’s the big deal?
Most Americans are unaware that Crimea is a small peninsula in the Black Sea that is north of Turkey and East of Romania. Had it not been for the recent Winter Olympic Games in Sochi most Americans wouldn’t even know where that part of the world is. Needless to say it’s not a region of the world that holds any strategic geographical advantages for the United States, unless it’s about……..natural gas. Crimea is the home of a major natural gas pipeline that comes from….wait for it, wait for it, RUSSIA.
So what does this have to do with anything? One of my all-time favorite Arizona Cardinals, Rod Tidwell, said it best when he exclaimed, “show me the money!”
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has never really been an ideological friend of the United States. Big deal, we’ve never really been an ideological friend of his either, so we’re even. However, whenever he starts to flex his muscles everyone in the European Union, and thus America by default, starts to take notice. This is no different (even though I find it somewhat hypocritical for us to get involved in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but that’s a different topic.)
A few weeks ago, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner said
“One immediate step the president can and should take is to dramatically expedite the approval of U.S. exports of natural gas. The United States has abundant supplies of natural gas, an energy source that is in demand by many of our allies, and the U.S Department of Energy’s excruciatingly slow approval process amounts to a de fact ban on American natural gas exports that Vladimir Putin has happily exploited to finance his geopolitical goals. We should not force our allies to remain dependent on Putin for their energy needs.”
So, if we don’t want our allies to become dependent on Putin, then who do we want them to become dependent on? It should not go without notice that Halliburton, yes, Halliburton has started exploring for natural gas in Poland and Shell Oil just signed a contract that allows them to explore for natural gas in, wait for it, wait for it….Ukraine!
In other words, become dependent on us, not them.
There’s a valid argument for price competitiveness of the global market for natural gas. Anytime there’s a monopoly on anything you’re asking for rampant corruption. I get that. But Boehner’s statement goes both ways. If Putin is using his resources to spread his geopolitical goals, then won’t the United States do the same? And as much as I hate to say this everyone in the world doesn’t, nor should they, aspire to live our way of life, nor do they want to live a Russian life.
In the end I fear this is, once again, about the almighty dollar. Rod Tidwell was right. We want access to Russia’s global market for natural gas. Russia wants to keep those markets. In the interim, as always, we have to create a boogey man who wants to kill us. To me, this one is simple. It’s not about politics. It’s about money. It’s about money that comes from the sales of natural gas.
And it stinks!