American politicians are threatening severe sanctions for German companies and even the Saßnitz port if they continue to support the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. The USA itself imports Russian oil - in the first half of 2020 at almost a record level. Anna Mikulska is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a Non-resident Fellow in Energy Economics at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Houston. She teaches energy policy and energy geopolitics at the University of Pennsylvania, studied law in Poland and Germany, did her Masters in Canada and received her PhD from the University of Houston. In an interview with WirtschaftsWoche, the energy expert reveals the US's double standards - and has long since worked out a clever market-based alternative for US policy.
This article comes from the "WirtschaftsWoche".
Question: The US senators of both parties rarely agree - unless it is about preventing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Rügen. Isn't that very hypocritical in view of the fact that the USA itself still imports a lot of oil from Russia?
Anna Mikulska: Most people believe that the US is completely independent of oil imports: US President Donald Trump in particular repeatedly emphasizes that the US does not need any foreign oil. The reality is more complex, and for a technological reason: Most US refineries cannot efficiently process the light petroleum produced by fracking in the US. They are optimized for heavy crude. As a result, there is still enormous international oil trade in the US.
Question: Is the heavy Venezuelan oil missing now, which has not been imported for a year due to the sanctions against the Maduro regime? Since 2018, the barrels imported from Russia have doubled to 11 million tons. The oil from the Russian Baltic port of Ust-Luga arrives in Houston and Galveston in the state of Texas as well as in Pascagoula in Mississippi.
Mikulska: That is even more complex. According to my analysis, purely market-economy aspects are at work. It is not the same actors who want to prevent Nord Stream 2 and who import Russian oil and even Russian gas into the US. Because yes, Russian gas has already arrived in the port of Boston. US politics does not buy the oil, but the American oil companies. They are not state-owned companies.
Question: The US government easily sanctions other states, but leaves domestic corporations a free hand?
Mikulska: Absolutely. That is the free market economy. The oil market is extremely liquid and very international - the choice between domestic and imported oil is based solely on price. Companies always buy where the prices are lowest. So-called heavy crude came from Venezuela, while Russia imports lighter oil, which is not even a direct substitute. From a moral point of view, Russian oil would not necessarily be better than Venezuelan oil.