Sept. 17 (UPI) -- The United States needs to increase its natural gas exports to Europe to counter Russia's increasing energy dominance in the region, a top Trump administration official warned.
Europe is shifting away from coal and new pipelines from Russia to Europe could put the countries at the mercy of Gazprom, Russia's largest gas producer.
"Due to a lack of supply routes and insufficient pipeline buildout, Europe is also becoming more, not less, dependent on Russian natural gas," Steven Winberg, assistant secretary of fossil energy, said during a Senate hearing Thursday. "That does not have to be the case. Our nation is endowed with vast supplies of natural gas and production is growing rapidly."
But some argue that allowing a mass exodus of natural gas out of the United States would push prices higher, slowing the manufacturing boom that the glut of gas has created.
U.S. gas production is 80 billion cubic feet per day and could increase to 110 billion cubic feet per day by 2040, according to the Energy Department.
Many companies are already building export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, a ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said exporting natural gas would raise energy prices for U.S. households the same way it did for Australia.
"We cannot lose focus on protecting U.S. consumers," she said.
The Trump administration is considering sanctions to stop Russia's Nordstream 2 pipeline into Germany, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said. Perry met last week with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
A new oil and gas lease in New Mexico will further cement the United States as the world's top energy producer.
The Bureau of Land Management sold the lease for nearly $1 billion.
U.S. oil producers are pumping 11 million barrels per day and that could increase to 14 million barrels, in part by leasing more federal land.
"Basically, I don't ever want to be held hostage by a foreign entity over energy needs," Ryan Zinke, secretary of the interior, said Monday on Fox Business. I don't want to send your kids or my kids on foreign shores to fight for energy and environmentally, it is best to produce energy in this country under reasonable regulation than watching it produced overseas with no regulation."
North Dakota's Bakken Shale will also play a large role in U.S. energy production. The state produced 1.2 million barrels of oil per day in July, a new record.
And that momentum won't stop any time soon.
"There's still somewhere between 20 and 60 years of drilling inventory in the state at today's price point," said Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.
If prices go up, the oil reserves go higher because it would not be economically feasible to drill for them. North Dakota has 65 drilling rigs working as of Friday. Natural gas production also hit a record 2.4 billion cubic feet per day in July.
The U.S. rig count had a net gain of 10 last week. Nationwide, there were 1,055 rigs working, with new rigs in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Oklahoma. Nearly half the rigs are operating in Texas, which dropped three rigs to finish the week at 525.