U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov announced on September 22 that the two nations have joined forces to create a landmark oil spill prevention and response plan.
The agreement paves the way for the U.S. and Russia to share technology and prepare joint prevention and response plans to reduce the risk of oil spills and resultant environmental damage.
The announcement was made during a three-day summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, aimed at facilitating economic and environmental cooperation between the two nations. The summit follows a similar meeting held last year in Houston.
“The goals of this summit, from the U.S. perspective, are to strengthen the overall U.S.-Russian relationship and to enhance the global energy dialogue, recognizing that successful development of the global economy depends on timely and reliable energy delivery,” according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Energy.
In addition to reaching agreement on oil spill prevention and response plans, the two nations discussed building an oil pipeline from interior Russia to the Arctic Ocean. From the port of Murmansk, crude oil could be shipped year-round to the United States.
Russia already accounts for 4 percent of U.S. oil imports. While the U.S. is seeking alternatives to Mideast crude oil exporters, Russia has made great strides in increasing the production and delivery capacity of its enormous oil reserves. Easier access to Russian oil reserves, the eighth largest in the world, would lessen U.S. vulnerability to OPEC price dictates.
Progress was also made on cooperation between the U.S. and Russia regarding natural gas supplies. Russia has the world’s largest natural gas reserves but an unreliable production and delivery infrastructure. As environmental issues force an increasing share of U.S. domestic natural gas fields out of potential production, access to Russian natural gas is another Energy Department priority.
Russian summit delegates expressed a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government and American companies to upgrade the Russian natural gas infrastructure in anticipation of future exports to the United States.
James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].