The decision by Germany to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2 underscores the critical role US natural gas can play on the world stage, former top energy regulator Neil Chatterjee told CNN on Tuesday.
“We are a gas superpower. We just need to be able to get it out of the ground and get it to market,” Chatterjee, who served as America’s top federal energy regulator until November 2020, said in a phone interview.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas and last year for the first time it became the No. 1 exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), surpassing Australia and Qatar.
Chatterjee, a Republican nominated to lead the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by former President Donald Trump, complained that regulators are making it harder to export LNG at a time when US allies need it to reduce reliance on Russia.
“I’ve been so frustrated by actions taken by my former colleagues, putting up more obstacles to get the infrastructure necessary to get natural gas to our allies,” Chatterjee said, referring to recent actions by FERC.
Germany announced Tuesday it would halt the certification of Nord Stream 2 after Russia ordered troops into parts of eastern Ukraine. The 750-mile pipeline, completed in September, was supposed to supply badly-needed gas from Russia to Germany.
Chatterjee, now an industry advisor to private equity giant KKR, expressed doubt that the pipeline won’t eventually get the green light from German regulators.
“I don’t buy it, Germany’s announcement today,” Chatterjee said. “It’s just a matter of when Nord Stream 2 is certified. It’s already built. I think this is posturing.”
Chatterjee added that Germany and Europe remain “dependent” on Russian gas.
“I have a hard time seeing them following through with this threat, particularly in the absence of alternatives,” he said. “This plays into Putin’s hands. Putin controls the timing on when and if he invades. Putin controls the timing on the delivery of gas. And that gives him dominant control.”
In November 2020, Trump quietly demoted Chatterjee as FERC’s chairman – a move the regulator said at the time may have been retribution for his support of clean energy.