EU signs gas deal with the US to limit its reliance on Russia

Around 40 percent of the EU's gas needs are currently met by supplies from Russia. /Brendan Smialowski /AFP

A gas deal between the U.S. and the European Union was struck on Friday, in a bid to free Europe from its reliance on Russian energy.

It was announced during U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Brussels, as the EU leaders' summit came to an end.

A "joint game plan" was how Biden described the export an extra 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. for the EU market this year.

"This initiative focuses on two core issues," he said. "One, helping Europe to reduce its dependency on Russian gas as quickly as possible, and secondly, reducing Europe's demand for gas overall."

Around 40 percent of the EU's gas needs are met by supplies from Russia. The long-term aim is for an annual boost of 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from the U.S. to the EU.

"I know that eliminating Russian gas will have costs for Europe," said Biden. "But it's not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, it's going to put us on a much stronger strategic footing."

The extra LNG will replace the energy supply the EU currently receives from Russia, keeping the heating on whilst moving the EU closer to its goal of greater gas stability.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "We want as Europeans, to diversify away from Russia towards suppliers that we trust, that are our friends and that are reliable."

European gas prices have recently been among the highest in the world.

At the EU summit on Friday, the leaders' split on energy prices was clear to see. Some countries want market intervention to bring down prices, while others are opposed to it.

And some EU leaders doubt prices will be affected by the U.S. gas deal, saying that already full capacity at LNG terminals in the U.S. and the EU means an increase in deliveries will be hard.

But they agreed on one thing: to rid Europe of its dependence on Russian energy as soon as possible. When asked when that would be, the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, "Later than we wish, and sooner than Mr Putin wishes."

Amid the concerns about security of supply and surging prices, Biden also noted the crisis presents an opportunity to "double down" on clean energy goals.

The gas deal includes a pledge to reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of all the new infrastructure and pipelines that will be used to make the extra supply happen.