‘Lack of understanding’: Trump’s former energy secretary slams Biden’s plans to divert gas to Europe amid fears Russia will invade Ukraine

The oil and gas terminal at the Port of Odessa in Odessa, Ukraine, on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Christopher Occhicone | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Former U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday sharply criticized the Biden administration’s contingency plans in the event that Russia cuts off its gas supplies to Europe.

His comments come amid growing fears of a potential Russian incursion into Ukraine.

President Joe Biden’s administration has sought ways to secure energy supplies for European allies in the event that the Kremlin abruptly cuts off flows of oil and gas exports in retaliation for sanctions.

“Governments have a really hard time manipulating markets, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here,” Perry told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Wednesday. The former Texas governor stood down from his role as former President Donald Trump’s top energy official in December 2019.

“Biden’s decision to get on the phone and call around and say: ‘Hey, will you guys crank up your LNG exports?’ It just doesn’t work that way,” Perry said, referring to liquefied natural gas.

“I think that is the sadness of this administration. Either their lack of understanding of just pure economics or their naivety when it comes to the decisions that they’ve made about the energy sector [and] about climate change,” he added.

A spokesperson for the White House was not immediately available to comment when contacted by CNBC.

A senior administration official, who declined to be named in order to share details of ongoing plans, said on a call with reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. had been in talks with major natural gas producers to better understand whether they would be prepared to temporarily allocate natural gas supplies to European buyers.

A second senior administration official warned the prospect of Russia’s weaponization of natural gas or crude oil exports “wouldn’t be without consequences to the Russian economy.”

‘It’s good to talk’

Western leaders have repeatedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kremlin would face a heavy price for invasion.

Biden said on Tuesday that he would consider imposing personal sanctions on Putin himself in the event of a war, saying the effects of a possible invasion “would change the world.”

Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops near the border of Ukraine but denies planning to enter the former Soviet republic.

Perry’s departure from office in late 2019 came amid questions about his actions in Ukraine. He was subpoenaed by congressional Democrats over his role in Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Hunter Biden, Biden’s son, who once served on a board of a Ukrainian energy firm.

Perry has denied he knew of Trump’s push for a political investigation into Ukraine. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives over his dealings with Ukraine but acquitted in February 2020 by the Republican-led Senate.

When asked whether he harbored any regrets about urging Trump to call Ukraine’s Zelenskyy, Perry said he “never heard the president say anything that crossed any lines at all.”

“I think it is wise for these world leaders to talk to each other,” he added. “And I absolutely would urge him to do it again with the president of Ukraine or for that matter with the president of Russia. It is good to talk.”

— CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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