U.S. Urges Russia to Supply Gas to Europe Quickly Rather Than Wait for Pipeline Approval

To lessen the risk of gas shortages this winter, President Joe Biden's senior energy adviser is asking Russia to provide Europe with a larger natural gas supply before a new pipeline begins operation.

The European Union and German authorities have yet to grant final regulatory approval on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which will bring gas across the Baltic Sea directly into Europe.

Regardless of its approval, Amos Hochstein, Biden's senior adviser for global energy security, said Russia has enough gas to increase sales to the EU and they should provide more gas "quickly."

"If Russia has the gas to supply Nord Stream 2, as they suggest, that means they have the gas to supply it through the Ukrainian GTS (gas transit system) or other pipelines as well, so they should do that," Hochisetin said to journalists via a briefing in Washington.

Hochsein also said the natural gas crunch in Europe had multiple causes, among them China's heavy demand for gas.

Europe imports about 90 percent of its gas from Russia. Natural gas prices are up to five times higher than at the start of the year.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Russia Pipeline Europe
FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2021, file photo, tugboats get into position on the Russian pipe-laying vessel "Fortuna" in the port of Wismar, Germany. The world's facing an energy crunch. Europe is feeling it worst as natural gas prices skyrocket to five times normal, forcing some factories to hold back production. Reserves depleted last winter haven't been made up, and chief supplier Russia has held back on supplying extra. Meanwhile, the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline won't start operating in time to help if the weather is cold, and there's talk Europe could wind up rationing electricity. China is feeling it too, seeing power outages in some towns. Jens Buettne/DPA via AP, File

Russia's state-controlled Gazprom has continued to supply gas to European customers under its long-term contracts but has not increased supply on the spot market even as prices have skyrocketed.

Some analysts and political figures have accused Russia of holding back gas supplies to pressure European authorities into speeding up final approval of the new pipeline, which could take months. Analysts do not expect Nord Stream 2 to help relieve Europe's gas crunch until sometime next year.

Hochstein repeated a warning from September that a lack of gas and heat could cost lives in the most vulnerable communities if the coming winter is colder than usual. He said the "crisis that we are facing is not just about money and higher prices, it was something that literally endangered lives."

The U.S. opposed the pipeline, saying it increased Europe's energy dependence on Russia, and it is opposed by both Poland and Ukraine over energy security concerns. Ukraine could lose transit fees if gas that otherwise would have gone through Ukraine's pipeline system passes through Nord Stream 2 instead.

The Biden administration dropped efforts to block it with sanctions once it was almost complete, instead striking a deal with Germany that they would take action against Russia if it used gas as a weapon against Ukraine and that Germany would help fund Ukraine's transition to green energy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the pipeline is "purely commercial."