Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Liquefied natural gas is a way to extend influence over the horizon to Europe, though similar gains are possible for Latin America, a U.S. senator said.
Polish Oil and Gas Co., known commonly as PGNiG, signed a five-year contract in November to secure LNG from the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, the first mid-term contract of its kind.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said the agreement would reduce "Russian President Vladimir Putin's ability to bully Europe."
European leaders have said LNG sourced from U.S. shale basins could present a source of diversity with the right infrastructure in place. Some countries in Eastern Europe like Poland rely almost exclusively on Russia for natural gas.
While chairing a committee hearing on the Small Scale LNG Access Act on Tuesday, Cassidy said small-scale LNG projects -- those with an export capacity of less than 51.1 billion cubic feet per year -- could extend U.S. leverage into Latin America.
"Increasing exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, or LNG, will decrease Caribbean and Central American reliance on Venezuelan fuel oil, increase economic opportunities, and offer a cleaner-burning fuel source for those nations," he said in remarks on the Senate floor. "Increasing LNG exports, even on a small scale, will positively impact the economies of the U.S. and those receiving the U.S. gas."
Venezuela has come under increased sanctions pressure under President Donald Trump. This summer, the U.S. Treasury Department hit Carlos Erik Malpica Flores, the former vice president for finance at state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known also as PDVSA, with sanctions in response to a crackdown on the opposition in the country. After a national vote seen as consolidating his grip on power, sanctions were later extended to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
The United States is, however, one the largest importers of Venezuelan oil.
The National Defense Authorization Act for the current fiscal year passed out of the House in November, largely with the support of Republican leadership in the chamber. Seventy members of the full house voted against it.
On energy security, the measure said U.S. efforts should promote energy security in Europe, stating Russia uses energy "as a weapon to coerce, intimidate and influence" countries in the region.