US says energy crisis in Europe is creating concerns for manipulation

(Bloomberg) — Rising natural gas prices in Europe have raised serious concerns about supply reliability in the region and should prompt a response from the US, according to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

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Speaking virtually from Poland on Wednesday, Granholm said the US and the European Union should be ready to “stand up” when there are energy-producing countries that “manipulate the supply to benefit themselves”. She did not specify what measures the US government could take.

Her comments follow Monday’s by Amos Hochstein, a senior energy security adviser at the State Department. He told Bloomberg News that gas supplies from Russia to Europe were “inexplicably low.” A group of lawmakers in Europe have called for an investigation into the role Russia’s Gazprom PJSC may be playing in the price spikes.

Natural gas shortages have left Europe struggling with an unprecedented price hike, forcing some factories to close and raising concerns about some countries’ ability to secure heating fuel as the weather gets colder. The energy crisis has also hijacked talks about the bloc’s ambitious plan to achieve climate neutrality.

“We all want to keep an eye on the issue of any manipulation of gas prices by hoarding or not producing enough supply,” Granholm said, without naming specific suppliers. “We are looking at this very seriously and we are united with our European allies to ensure you get adequate, affordable gas supplies this winter.”

A group of lawmakers from all political groups in the European Parliament is calling on the European Commission to investigate the role of Russia’s Gazprom PJSC in the deficits, because they suspect market manipulation. The International Energy Agency called on Russia to supply more natural gas to Europe. US Hochstein said Russia is trying to use the energy crisis to bolster its advocacy for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which US President Joe Biden is opposing.

US natural gas supplies have also fallen after a decade of wild spending by shale producers, leading to oversupply and falling prices, driving many producers out of business.

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