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Political Equation For Offshore Drilling On Virginia Coast Changing Thanks To Russia

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Lawmakers are debating whether to export more natural gas to combat Russian threats to cut off its gas supplies to Europe as the political calculations are shifting in Virginia and across the country.

President Barack Obama has implemented a moratorium on drilling for natural gas off Virginia’s coast, but the state’s lawmakers say political pressure from Russia may change the White House’s calculation.

This week many lawmakers who were dubious of exporting more natural gas overseas became more open to the idea in order to compete with Russia’s dominance over European markets. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) says this is a perfect storm.

“This is a combination of Ukraine is posing the question in a stark way, but also just the changes in energy issues over the last couple of years is making us realize that this is one potential tool of diplomacy that we should explore,” Kaine says.

But Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says lawmakers are making a mistake if they think exporting more gas will have an influence on European markets, because any changes to export laws will take years to implement.

“This is a polluting, climate changing energy that’s best left in the ground and best left in the United States," Tidwell says. "It’s going to raise prices if we export it and it won't solve any geopolitical intrigue overseas.”

Senator Kaine says he thinks the Senate may debate the issue in the coming weeks, though no vote has been scheduled.

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