As Russia aims to tighten its grip over European energy supply, especially in natural gas with the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Europe’s energy dependence on Moscow is a concern for U.S. lawmakers who worry that American military bases in Europe also depend on energy from Russia.
U.S. lawmakers are calling upon the Department of Defense to cut reliance on Russian energy at military bases in Europe, and to introduce sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 project.
Defense Logistics Agency data show that close to 40 percent of oil used at military sites in Germany comes from Russia. In southwestern Germany, for example, the Ramstein Air Base serves as the headquarters for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) installation.
U.S. bases need backup power supply to ensure reliable electricity and other energy supplies should a power outage occur, or should the energy supply be compromised, Constance Douris, Vice President of the Lexington Institute, writes.
The backup supply could come from microgrids capable of operating off the main grid, bulk energy storage, and even electric vehicles (EVs) whose batteries can be used to power homes, Douris argues.
Backup solutions for U.S. military bases are imperative in the face of the constantly growing Russian energy supply to Europe, she says.
Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, for example, has been raising its exports to Europe and its gas sales in the first half of this year exceeded 100 bcm for the first time—at 101.2 bcm, they were 5.8 percent higher than the exports in the first half of 2017, the company says.
Then, there is the Gazprom-led highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which is opposed by European Union (EU) institutions and some EU members, not to mention U.S. lawmakers.
Earlier this year, Washington started hinting at possible sanctions on the project.
In the middle of July, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced legislation “to give North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members an escape from Russia’s political coercion and manipulation.”
The bill for the Energy Security Cooperation with Allied Partners in Europe Act, or the “ESCAPE Act,” authorizes mandatory U.S. sanctions on the development of Russian energy pipeline projects, such as Nord Stream 2.
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators, in a letter led by Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), urged the Department of Defense (DOD) to buy less energy from Russia.
“U.S. military bases in Europe currently utilize significant amounts of Russian-sourced energy, making them vulnerable to intentional supply disruptions by the Russian government. The reliance also undercuts U.S. efforts to reassure allies and deter Russian aggression in Europe,” Sens. Toomey, Casey, and the 11 other Senators who signed the letter say.
“We anticipate the Russian Federation will continue to use energy – electricity, natural gas, oil, and refined oil products – as a political weapon in Europe. Therefore, the United States must prepare to complete its various missions and deter any threats to our forces or allies irrespective of, or in opposition to, hostile Russian actions,” said the Senators.
According to Lexington Institute’s Douris, microgrids, storage systems, and EVs could help U.S. bases secure a backup energy supply. Nissan LEAF, for example, has a “Vehicle to Home” system that allows users to supply their home with the energy stored in a Nissan LEAF’s battery.
As Russia expands its energy reach into Europe, there are growing calls in the United States for America’s military to consider alternative backup electricity and energy supply.