US says East Med vital to energy security

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The East Mediterranean is critical for energy security, said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Laura Lochman.

She said gas could be supplied to Europe through potential interconnections between Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

In an interview with CNA, Lochman, who paid Cyprus her first overseas visit since assuming her duties, speaks about the region’s energy potential and the reason behind US misgivings about the EastMed pipeline.

“The reason I came to this part of the world is that the East Mediterranean is critical for energy security.

“There is great potential here in this region in terms not only of the traditional hydrocarbon resources here but also for renewable resources…so it is a very interesting mix.”

According to Lochman, “the need in Europe at this point is great due to the unprovoked and completely unjustified Russian invasion of Ukraine, or re-invasion of Ukraine, and that has turned all of the markets topsy turvy.

“Fortifying European energy security at this point is important from many perspectives, and the East Mediterranean can be part of the solution.”

On rising energy prices, she said: “We are doing what we can in this regard, accelerating the development of alternative forms of energy to hydrocarbons but at the same time trying to create a better balance between supply and demand in the medium term for oil and gas.”

Lochman said there were a lot of potential reserves of natural gas in Cyprus which needed exploiting.

“There is great potential for this region at large if you look at the reserves in Israel, in Egypt and then here as well.

“You could see where there could be a lot of connections made and that the gas developed in this region could supply the region and move further into Europe, particularly South-Eastern Europe and alleviate the dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

“There is huge potential for solar here in Cyprus and then wind as well, so it all is part of the mix that allows this region to be an energy powerhouse.”

On US misgivings about the EastMed gas pipeline, she explained, “there is certainly a need for immediate solutions to this imbalance between supply and demand for energy.

“If you look at a very long, very deep water, expensive pipeline that would take between, we have heard estimates 5 to 12 years to develop, that would not be something that would be an immediate term or even a median term solution.

“If you need to get energy into the markets more immediately, it seems to us that it would make more sense to take advantage of other options.

“Either existing infrastructure so that we would be getting gas, for example, through short interconnectors to Egypt and take advantage of the LNG facilities in Egypt to be able then to ship LNG to Europe, or it would be for electricity interconnectors.”

Washington is committed to cooperating with Cyprus, Greece and Israel, especially in joint energy interests.

“One of the pillars of the dialogue is on energy.

“It is an obvious area of cooperation among us. We have an active schedule now of meetings under the energy pillar.”