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Enhancing US energy security and mitigating climate change

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

David Goldwyn, a non-resident senior fellow with the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institute, delivered testimony on the US security implications of international energy and climate policies at a hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance. The hearing took place on 22 July 2014.

In this testimony, Golwyn emphasized that the US has multiple tools that might be used to mitigate the impacts of energy supply disruptions, enhance energy security and mitigate global climate change, including:

Energy diplomacy

Goldwyn holds that diplomacy is a first line of defense. It will be required in order to keep Iraq from fragmenting, and to facilitate unity between stakeholders so that ISIS is repelled and Iraq’s contribution to global energy supply is sustained. In many regions, the US needs to advocate for the policy reforms required to attract energy investment, reduce subsidies, reduce dependency on a single fuel or supplier or open markets to US exports or investments, Goldwyn insisted.

Technical assistance

The US can also help other countries to grow their energy supply through technical assistance. Two examples of this are all of the government programs led by Department of State Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR): the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (UGTEP) and the Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative (EGCI).

Competitive markets and free trade

According to Golwyn, the US must contribute to its own energy security and that of the planet by producing its own energy, using what it needs and exporting the rest. The country could dramatically increase its own security and that of others by connecting to the global market. From a geopolitical perspective, increased LNG exports from the US and its allies would shift rents away from traditional, autocratic suppliers, including Russia, that have used the proceeds to finance policies at odds with US national security interests. US supply would also promote price competition and stability in global oil and gas markets.

Building a more competitive LNG market can also help to mitigate climate change. In the coming decades, Goldwyn highlights that the greatest risk of greenhouse gas emissions growth comes from non-OECD Asia, which is forecast to account for 65% of total energy demand growth through 2035. China and India alone are expected to build nearly 40% of the world’s generation capacity, and both countries are currently heavily reliant on coal as a base load fuel.

Goldwyn claims that the best way to address emissions growth in these countries is to help them meet incremental demand through lower carbon alternatives. These alternatives need to be able to supply base load electricity at scale. The currently available, scalable options are petroleum products such as fuel oil or diesel, nuclear power, and natural gas. Petroleum products are inefficient and expensive, as well as high carbon. Nuclear energy is complex and safe infrastructure takes over a decade to build.

US LNG exports can help make gas more affordable in Europe and Asia. Goldwyn explains that US natural gas production has already lowered global LNG prices by displacing supplies meant for the US market. Goldwyn emphasized that natural gas remains the obvious choice to serve as a bridge to scalable renewable energy.

Adapted from testimony by Emma McAleavey.

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