Clinton: Energy Security a Major U.S. Foreign Policy Element
Source: Oil & Gas Journal, Nick Snow (1/26/09)
"[Clinton] intends. . .to appoint an international energy affairs coordinator within the [State] department."
Noting that President Barack H. Obama identified energy as one of his top national security priorities during his presidential campaign, Clinton said she has considered energy security and climate change among the most pressing challenges facing the U.S. and the world.
"These are issues on which I will personally engage, and they will consistently receive high-level attention at the [State] Department. I will work with our friends and partners around the world, who are facing the same challenges. I also intend to ensure that the department works vigorously through the interagency process on these issues," she said in a written response to questions Sen. Richard D. Lugar (R-Ind.) submitted to her following her Jan. 13 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In opening remarks at that hearing, Lugar, the committee's ranking minority member, said that Russia's cutting off natural gas supplies was only the most recent example of how energy supply vulnerability constrains US foreign policy options.
Lugar said in a speech he delivered at a 2006 North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Riga, Latvia, that a country's halting gas exports in midwinter violated Article 5 of the NATO agreements as surely as tanks and aircraft crossing a country's border. Clinton agreed, adding: "I think we have learned the hard way that the [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] cartel is not just a cartel, but a security geopolitical strategic effort." Russia is trying to create a gas equivalent of OPEC, which would give it a much greater multilateral international reach on gas in addition to the bilateral powers it currently has, she said.
"Specifically with respect to Russia and its interactions with Ukraine, Georgia, and other European countries, and its recent purchase of the Serbian gas utility, I hope we can make progress with our friends in NATO and the [European Union] to understand that we do need a broader framework in which we can talk about energy security issues. It may or may not be Article 5, but I think it certainly is a significant energy challenge that we ignore at our peril," Clinton said.
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) also expressed concern over impacts on European countries' decision-making of potential Russian gas cutoffs. "It seems to me that we ought to really raise the issue of energy independence in terms of our national security, and also be able to make the right decisions in the world when some of our allies may not be able to because they're frightened that somebody is going to shut off their gas," he said.
"As you and Sen. Lugar have pointed out, that becomes even more acute in Europe. So I think this deserves a lot of attention," she told Voinovich. She said she intends to follow a recommendation Lugar originally proposed in 2006 that was signed into law as a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act to appoint an international energy affairs coordinator within the department.
Lugar noted, in his written questions, that Clinton's predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, placed the position within the undersecretary for economic, energy and business affairs' office. "Thus, the highest ranking State Department official devoted to energy issues remains at the level of office director," the senator said.