On March 26, Congressman Michael Turner reintroduced a resolution calling for bipartisan support of the Southern Gas Corridor, a large energy initiative that would provide European countries with a reliable source of natural gas as an alternative to Russian gas. The Southern Gas Corridor could be a tool to connect European energy markets to the gas fields of Central Asia. It could bring roughly 60-120 billion cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field. This natural gas will travel through Georgia and Turkey and then into the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) into Greece, Albania, and then connect into European networks in Italy.
The benefits of opening the Southern Gas Corridor are obvious. It would diversify Europe’s energy supply in the region, increase economic development via infrastructure projects (new pipelines, etc.), and enhance regional cooperation. Further, the Corridor enables key US allies in Europe to move away from reliance on Russian energy sources, alleviating potential political coercion (as we’ve seen in Russia’s recent handling of Ukrainian energy).
Although the Russians have given up on building the South Stream Pipeline under the Black Sea into the Balkans, it looks as if they will build a “Turk Stream” to bring gas into Turkey and on to Europe. What that means is that if the Southern Corridor isn’t built, the Russians will control yet another access route into Europe.
The Southern Corridor has been a bipartisan priority for American foreign policy going back through the Obama and Bush Administrations. Establishing the Southern Gas Corridor will lead to key developments in infrastructure for European countries. Among these is the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, running from the Greece/Turkey border and across the Adriatic Sea to Italy. This pipeline alone can account for roughly 10 billion cubic meters of gas, bolstering the energy security of all countries involved.
Azerbaijan, the source of the gas, is a key player in an increasingly unstable region. It bridges the Middle East, Iran, and Russia – all parts of the world where its important to have an American friend. The strategic value to American interests in the region is very important. They help provide regional stability, stem the tide of terrorist recruitment efforts in the region, and provide a moderate model for governance in the region. They have proved a reliable energy source since the opening of the BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan) pipeline in 2006 that bring oil from the Caspian to World Markets on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
As Members of Congress increasingly tout US exports of LNG to Europe as a way to break Russia’s monopoly (an important option that should be promoted), we should remember that the Southern Corridor is an option as well. Congressman Turner’s resolution is an important, bipartisan effort to show Congressional support for energy security in Europe, and it deserves support.
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