Skip to main content

Russian incursion may be opportunity for U.S. mariners

By Rep. John Garamendi
updated 1:03 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Russia has been a dominant supplier of natural gas to Europe, but that may shift after its incursion into Crimea.
Russia has been a dominant supplier of natural gas to Europe, but that may shift after its incursion into Crimea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. John Garamendi argues that Europe may look beyond Russia for natural gas
  • That, he says, creates an opening for increased exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas
  • It also increases the need for U.S.-flagged transport ships, he writes
  • But the U.S. shipbuilding industry has withered as Japan and South Korea have thrived

Editor's note: Rep. John Garamendi, D-California, serves on the Agriculture, Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees and is the ranking member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. Follow him on Twitter @RepGaramendi.

(CNN) -- The crisis in Crimea, though potentially destabilizing to the global economy, may present a silver lining to the U.S. economy: an opportunity to reinvigorate the American shipbuilding industry and Merchant Marine.

Even though Russia supplies 30% of Europe's natural gas, President Vladimir Putin's territorial aggression is causing Europe to look elsewhere for its energy needs.

The U.S. should be prudent in exporting this natural resource, which has led to resurgence in domestic manufacturing, but I believe that the liquefied natural gas we do send overseas should be shipped on U.S.-flagged tankers and crewed by U.S. licensed and unlicensed mariners.

I am pursuing this policy, as the ranking member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, because it will boost the domestic maritime industry and strengthen our national defense and economic security.

U.S. natural gas, globally, is abundant and cheap, making it an attractive commodity for other nations that are net importers of energy resources.

Rep. John Garamendi
Rep. John Garamendi

The Department of Energy has approved seven liquefied natural gas export applications, and 24 more are pending.

To transport gas via the ocean, the world must rely upon two countries to build these tanker vessels: Japan and South Korea.

Despite being the early pioneer in gas tanker technology, America is no longer on this list. For decades, the federal government and Congress have largely ignored the health of its own shipbuilding industry, especially the capacity to build large oceangoing tankers, bulk carriers and container vessels.

In 1951, we had 1,200 ships in the U.S. foreign trade. Today, we have 90 ships. Obviously, this is not a good trajectory if we are to maintain our heritage as a great maritime nation.

Everyone agrees that the U.S. is the greatest naval power in the world. But our naval superiority may not sustain itself if we fail to make the necessary investments to maintain and enhance our technological edge.

What is Russia's next move?
IMF aid for Ukraine has conditions
Russian standoff in 'eleventh hour'

We can do that by reinvigorating an innovative shipbuilding industrial base, and by requiring that liquefied natural gas exports be carried on American bottoms, we can provide a new long-term market to sustain this revitalization.

Those who oppose such a policy often point to two criticisms. First, recognizing at present that there are no American shipyards building liquefied natural gas tankers, how can we require such exports to be carried on U.S. ships that are not being built?

They are not being built because in some markets, especially strategic ones like shipbuilding and defense, the government must require that we maintain these capabilities through policies such as the one I am proposing.

Our shipyards assure me that if we were to adopt such a policy, they could retool their production lines and have liquefied natural gas tankers sliding down the ways within five years, not long after the first export terminal is completed.

The other criticism is that it will cost more to use American-built liquefied natural gas tankers than those built in foreign yards and that this cost differential will be an impediment to the growth of the export market.

This argument is about the bottom line of energy companies and not the bottom line of America's shipbuilding industry. Our nation's economic and national security and the well-being of our middle class would benefit from this new source of high-paying jobs, both in the shipyards and in our Merchant Marine.

Opportunities must be seized when they become apparent.

We have allowed other nations to wrest away from the U.S. its former dominance in this strategically vital industry. We must seize the exportation of natural gas as an opportunity to reinvigorate the domestic maritime industry and bolster our national defense.

We are a maritime nation, and we can build liquefied natural gas tankers in America. But in order to do so, we must act now.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Rep. John Garamendi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT