On March 25, 2014, my Huffington Post blog, Will the U.S. Fund Russian Gas Exports? reported on the U.S. Government's consideration of funding for the enormous and environmentally harmful Yamal liquid natural gas (Yamal LNG) export project in the Russian Arctic. I questioned whether the U.S. government will subsidize a Russian gas export project when the Kremlin is known to be using gas exports as a geopolitical weapon, and especially whether the U.S. could fund a project co-owned by Gennady Timchenko, an oil and gas baron and crony to President Putin and one of the political figures under U.S. sanctions. A day later, Daniel Reilly, a public relations official at the U.S. Government's Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) asked me to update the blog with this clarification:
"Ex-Im Bank has not provided any support for the Yamal LNG project. The Bank simply received an application last year to support exports of U.S. goods as one of many lenders to the project, and we have suspended it subject to any further developments -- even though the company ownership percentage does not rise to the level of the sanctions criteria."
This is welcome news. But, to my knowledge the Ex-Im Bank has not yet made any other public statement on the suspension, and as of today, the agency website still lists the project as pending.
This also begs the question of why the Ex-Im Bank considered financing Yamal LNG in the first place. Ex-Im Bank first announced Yamal as a pending project in November 2013, the same month that the Kremlin-backed Ukranian government used violence against tens of thousands of demonstrators, and many years after Russia's use of gas exports as a geopolitical weapon began.
Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg needs speak out on this issue, and let the public know exactly where Ex-Im Bank stands.