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U.S. Energy Security Policy: A Global Perspective

Making sure markets are open, fair, and transparent is a key tenet of the Obama administration's global energy security agenda. At a January 11 Director's Forum, State Department special envoy David Goldwyn outlined the United States' plan for energy security policy.

"Open energy markets—which is the ability of oil and gas to flow to the purchaser—is really the core of our energy security," said David Goldwyn, the State Department's special envoy for international energy affairs. Making sure markets are open, fair, and transparent is one of five tenets of the administration's global energy security agenda that he discussed at a January 11 Director's Forum.

Another tenet in the administration's agenda is promoting policies that increase efficient energy use at home and abroad. On the domestic front, Goldwyn said, the administration has increased fuel efficiency standards; increased investments in mass transit; raised building and appliance standards, and launched technology partnerships to develop energy-efficient initiatives. Looking abroad, the United States is working through the G-20 to help other countries reduce inefficient fossil fuels and develop low carbon emission strategies "so they can change their energy mix to use less and go farther," said Goldwyn.

Another objective is helping Haiti and Pakistan expand their access to environmental services. Goldwyn said the State Department has engaged these nations to transform their energy services, particularly electricity, to improve reliability and access.

Also on the foreign policy front, Goldwyn said the administration seeks to bring China, India, Russia, and Brazil into the collective energy security system, develop new partnership agreements, and expose other countries to market mechanisms. He recognized Brazil's progress on sustainable housing and Mexico's advances in energy efficiency. "We can pool our resources, not with the U.S. telling everybody what to do, but to have every country that leads in an area work together to try to propagate these technologies," he said.

Another major goal he cited is to diversify energy supply and suppliers, not only the number of countries who supply energy but also the kinds used. He said Americans worry about oil and gas prices but not availability. But in many nations in Eurasia, Africa, and other emerging economies, access to energy resources is often in question and often becomes an issue of national power. "For other countries, access to oil and gas is not just an economic issue—it's not a matter of whether it's too expensive or not," he said. "In some countries, it's a matter of whether the lights go on and the heat goes on in the winter. It's about whether their economy can grow or not."

In efforts to diversify energy supply, Goldwyn said, renewable energy could help reduce the cost of wind and solar power. While there is also support for nuclear energy, concerns abound about waste disposal and the potential for nuclear proliferation.

In the United States, he said, high-level talks are occurring to engage suppliers and emerging suppliers from the Persian Gulf to Eurasia. The U.S. is increasingly engaging with Canada, Colombia, Angola, Nigeria, Mexico, Russia, and the U.S.-EU Energy Council to discuss energy markets, supply, and efficiency, he said. Strategic dialogues are also occurring with major consumers, such as China and India, nations that rely on America's liquid, open energy markets. Goldwyn said, "Policies supporting those open markets are important to them and us."

Goldwyn touted two projects his office has launched. The Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative seeks to improve transparency. The State Department assessed countries with 40 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and gas potential, which are on track to become energy producers. Launched in nine countries so far—including Uganda, Liberia, and Suriname—the Initiative pools the expertise from across the U.S. government to teach these nations to manage the business end of energy production before the revenues flow so they can govern better.

The second project is the Global Shale Gas Initiative. "Shale has revolutionized the global gas market," said Goldwyn. It's in large supply and available on the spot market in Europe and elsewhere. For countries primarily using coal for energy, accessing natural gas would use half the carbon output of coal. Many nations could produce an indigenous supply and costs would be lower due to higher efficiency. In 20 countries, the Initiative teaches about governance, environmental impact, transmission, pricing, and how to develop unconventional gas safely. This Initiative also uses the whole-of-government approach and, said Goldwyn, the effects ultimately would be good for the environment, climate, and economic development.

Goldwyn last spoke at the Wilson Center in 2005 during the launch of the book, Energy and Security: Toward a New Foreign Policy Strategy, which he co-edited with Jan Kalicki, counselor for international strategy at Chevron Corporation and a former Wilson Center scholar. The book, co-published by Woodrow Wilson Center Press, contends that the United States must lead at home before it can lead abroad and, in its foreign policy approach, should not dictate what other countries should do. Some of the book's tenets resonate in the energy security strategies being implemented today: investing in new technology; diversifying supply and suppliers; using natural gas to advance toward a low-carbon future; and expanding the collective energy system to incorporate strategic nations toward multilateral energy security diplomacy.

Goldwyn said there is much unfinished business, particularly toward reaching the President's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent and toward diversifying the global energy supply. Worldwide, 1.5 billion people lack access to reliable energy services and this number is likely to grow. He said poor countries subsidize electricity, then there is no investment to recover the costs, and the economies suffer in this vicious cycle. "If you can get prices right in developing countries, then coal is not the favored fuel of choice [just] because it's the cheapest. Then you have ability to deliver more reliability. You can combine political will and capacity building to help countries," Goldwyn said.

The priority is transforming the world's energy system to a low carbon, low emissions one, a process that will be a long haul, said Goldwyn. He urged policymakers, environmentalists, and energy producers "to keep an open mind, a patient ear, and a civil tongue. If we can do that, we can have a stronger economy, cleaner environment, and safer world."

By Dana Steinberg
Sharon McCarter, Vice President, Outreach & Communications

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