Home / Oil & Energy / Oil & Companies News / Panel sees room for US Congress to agree on energy strategy with Indo-Pacific

Panel sees room for US Congress to agree on energy strategy with Indo-Pacific

A bipartisan panel of energy experts saw potential for the current Congress to find common ground on a number of policy recommendations made in a new report on US economic, security and energy challenges with China and other Indo-Pacific regional countries.

The report published May 13 by the Energy Innovation Reform Project’s Task Force on US Indo-Pacific Energy Strategy focuses on the need for new strategies and policies that account for the global energy transition and increasing geopolitical competition.

The task force, co-chaired by Bush administration Under Secretary of State Ambassador Paula Dobriansky and Obama-era Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, contends that policies to achieve a low-carbon future can be integrated into wider efforts to accelerate energy innovation, enhance national security, boost competitiveness and spur economic growth.

The 19 policy recommendations in the report are categorized as either security, economic or clean energy proposals and touch on issues spanning LNG exports, nuclear power and proliferation, critical mineral supply chains, cybersecurity, greenhouse gas emissions, investment and energy innovation.

“None of these policies will work if they don’t sustain bipartisan support because we’re talking about multi-decadal investments, and nobody’s going to make a multi-decadal investment, if you think it’s going to get flipped in two years or four years,” Poneman said during a May 13 virtual briefing on the report. “So we have to be bipartisan, or we will fail.”

Task force members were optimistic that common ground could be reached as lawmakers are keen to address US competition with China and Russia and strengthen relationships and coordinate with Indo-Pacific regional governments, including Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia and ASEAN member states, in order to compete more effectively.

Strategy built on rulemaking
Task force member Michael Green, a National Security Council staffer during the Bush administration who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the report offers a middle ground for the US approach to China on energy and climate issues: “a strategy that builds on rulemaking in the Indo-Pacific with our allies and partners, but not to exclude China, instead to shape Chinese choices.”

He said there is recognition on a bipartisan basis in Congress and within the Biden administration that “we’re going to have to build stronger partnerships with allies and partners, network them, and get into the business of rulemaking in this region with the eventual effect, we hope, of beginning to shape some of China’s choices, particularly with respect to energy policy.”

Yet, the US is not leading on rulemaking in the Indo-Pacific region right now as it is not a part of the two largest trade agreements and rulemaking efforts in the region, namely the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“If we’re concerned about Chinese revisionism and hegemonic aspirations, which we should be, we have to be in the rulemaking game. We can’t cede the field,” Green said, adding that the US would not want China writing the rules for nuclear safety, for access to critical minerals or on sustainable development as countries shift from coal to LNG.

Allies’ concerns
Also troublesome, Green said, is the lack of certainty over the fate of domestic policy on LNG and infrastructure, raising “major concerns” among the US’ closest allies.

“The administration is sending very mixed signals on LNG, and LNG is absolutely essential for the future energy strategies of close allies like Japan, Korea and partners like Taiwan” as well as “a critical export area for Australia,” Green said.

There is also concern that the “free and open Indo-Pacific” regional infrastructure financing approach advanced by the Trump administration to compete and offer an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative could be “hijacked for the purpose of zero-emission infrastructure financing,” Green said. If that were to be the case, “all the effort that’s been put in and a lot of money put in by Japan and Australia is going to have gone for not.”

He said it was important for the US to “be aware that if we don’t get our own energy strategy and policy squared away at home, it’s actually going to become an irritant and a problem with allies and partners.”

Consensus areas
Technological innovation presents a silver lining as it is “a space where, as it’s connected to great-power competition, both sides of the aisle are focused on,” Dobriansky said. “There may be different approaches, different emphases as to how to go about it, but I do think there is that common base in looking at not just energy but the broad range of technological innovation that affects our economy, our growth, our security, our prosperity.”

Poneman agreed, adding that “there is a pretty strong consensus that the US does need to lead for” a litany of economic, employment, trade, national security and safety reasons.

He acknowledged that at the ideological “extremes, there are people who don’t sign up,” but added that “there’s a pretty big center that is strongly bipartisan in nature that can get us back where we need to be.”
Source: Platts

Recent Videos

Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide Online Daily Newspaper on Hellenic and International Shipping