March 4, 2016
A US Strategy for Sustainable Energy Security
By David Koranyi
The national energy system of the United States is aging and has to be renewed in a dynamic fashion to adapt to the transformative changes in the world of energy. Failure to do so will result in substantial economic disadvantage and national security vulnerabilities, and risk the United States’ position as the leading global power in the twenty-first century. The need for modernization represents a unique opportunity to upgrade the United States to a cutting edge system of energy hardware and software. Moreover, climate change is a severe threat to the United States and an existential one to much of the rest of humanity. Climate change represents an ever growing, direct risk to the American people as extreme weather events wreak havoc, rising sea levels engulf coastal cities, and natural beauties and wildlife habitats degrade.
The second paper in the Atlantic Council Strategy Paper series, A US Strategy for Sustainable Energy Security, advocates energy policies which focus on preventing the catastrophic consequences of climate change by accelerating the modernization of its energy sector without creating major disruptions to the American lifestyle.
The three-pillar strategy’s first pillar builds upon the United States’ unparalleled richness in both human and natural potential. At the center of this pillar is the accelerated decarbonization of the US economy, based primarily on a well-calibrated and progressively increasing carbon fee.
The second pillar ensures that the United States leads on global climate action and addresses the energy insecurity of key allies. Sustained US leadership is essential to uphold and bolster an international consensus and action on climate change post-Paris COP21, and to prevent countries from turning back. Excessive dependence on external energy supplies from a single source may endanger the ability of allies to conduct an independent foreign policy that is both in their national and in the allied interest. Therefore, the United States must strive to do everything in its capacity to assist allies and partners in the quest to improve their energy security. The United States should also work with key allies and international institutions to deal with the instability associated with the transformation of the energy sector and its impact on major traditional producers.
The third pillar pushes for energy liberalization to enable better functioning domestic and global markets and aims to build a functioning international energy governance system. The United States should work toward a global web of networks, alliances, and instruments to promote transparent and efficient energy markets and effective climate action.
This strategy may seem ambitious in light of the political realities in the United States today. Yet, as support for climate action and energy sector modernization in the American electorate grows, and associated costs of action shrink at the back of economies of scale and technological development, there is an emerging political space that allows for bold, bipartisan policies. This paper seeks to inform the debate in the 2016 election season and the legislative and executive action beyond.
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