February 2, 2017
Energy resources and innovative technology could be a cornerstone of the independence and security of all countries, but this requires a commitment to transatlantic cooperation, according to Poland’s Deputy Energy Minister Michael Kurtyka.

“Our nations, every one of them, are… first for our citizens, but we have to cooperate,” Kurtyka said at the Atlantic Council on January 31. “When the American government is in transition and the European Union is in crisis, it is good to start talking about this kind of cooperation.”

Dominique Ristori, director general for energy at the European Commission, emphasized the economic benefits of clean energy development and the security benefits of energy diversification. He said transatlantic cooperation is essential for pushing the energy market forward. “EU-US energy cooperation has been a real transatlantic success story,” he said, adding, “this has been possible because we share the same values and the same vision regarding an open and competitive energy market.”

Ristori said that even though US energy policy under US President Donald Trump is likely to be overhauled, the EU and the United States will still have a largely overlapping agenda.

Kurtyka and Ristori delivered opening remarks at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center to discuss transatlantic values in the energy space. Ristori joined Piotr Naimski, secretary of state in the Prime Minister’s Chancellery and Government’s Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure for the Republic of Poland; and Richard L. Morningstar, founding director and chairman of the Global Energy Center, for a panel discussion exploring the ways the United States and the EU might work together, and the future of energy policy under the new Trump administration. Emily Meredith, deputy bureau chief at Energy Intelligence, moderated the discussion.

Morningstar emphasized the importance of making a pragmatic case to the new administration focused on the tangible, concrete benefits of developing the global energy market. “We need to be very cognizant of framing the issues to this administration in a way that they will find more than acceptable, that will make sense,” in particular, jobs, innovation, competitiveness, “all of which should be of interest to this new administration,” said Morningstar.

“When we are pushing new energies… the renovation of all existing parts… this is opening fantastic new possibilities in terms of [the] market,” such as new jobs and increasing gross domestic product (GDP), said Ristori. He emphasized the work that can be done between the United States and the EU toward new energy technology, diversification of energy sources, and cooperation in the energy market, citing these as his top priorities for transatlantic cooperation.

According to Naimski, a top priority on both sides of the Atlantic is “to make sure that the question of energy is not politicized, but that we can have a liquid, competitive, well-functioning market for energy in Europe. But we are not there.”

Kurtkya proposed the notion of an international organization which could alleviate the responsibility of national governments with regard to ensuring the development, security, and diversity of energy resources, in combination with a competitive market. With regard to expanding NATO beyond its military function to include and energy dimension, “I believe it’s worth it to think about it,” he said.

Naimski emphasized a role for the United States in helping with the development of “competitive technologies that can secure new sources of energy for European countries.” He described the shale revolution in the United States as a factor which is “completely reshaping the geopolitics of oil and gas in the world.” Shale gas exists in Poland, a country that still primarily relies on coal. In this regard, Naimski said that Poland would seek to build links with US colleagues to develop the necessary technologies to transform shale into a profitable opportunity and diversify its energy sources.

Ristori described how the United States and the EU also hold common values with regard to energy security, “particularly orientated toward diversification.” He said that dependence on a single energy supplier threatens security and stability on a geopolitical scale. Naimski echoed Ristori’s emphasis on diversification and security of supply, saying “we cannot ignore that it is part of security, in short.”

Whatever the new US administration does, “hopefully Europe continues to push toward diversification, toward an integrated market,” said Morningstar. However, in order to alleviate energy dependence, in particular in Eastern Europe, development of more energy infrastructure is needed, said Ristori. “This will be a part of our approach regarding diversification,” he said.

The need for diversification of energy supply appears more pressing in light of the potential for a renewed US relationship with Russia. Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to renew relations with the Kremlin. However, Russia controls a great deal of the energy supply to Europe, which it has in the past used as leverage against nations dependent on its resources.

Russian gas company Gazprom, in combination with a number of Western European energy companies, is building a new pipeline called Nord Stream 2, which will transport natural gas from Russia to the European Union. This project “does not add to European security,” said Naimski, but rather, “could have disastrous effects on the Central European markets and on the security of supply for countries like Ukraine.” While Morningstar said it is too soon to determine the new administration’s policy toward Nord Stream 2, he predicted that it will be neutral.

On the issue of Russia more generally, “there are many [in Congress] who feel very strongly about Central and Eastern Europe and European energy security in relation to Russian exports and gas,” said Morningstar. He said “the administration is going to have to deal with that as well.”  

There is a great deal that needs to be done, Morningstar conceded, but “ultimately, it’s still going to be a European issue, and there are divisions within Europe.” He claimed that the weight of Central and Eastern European countries making their case to the rest of Europe “is going to have more to do with it than the United States.

If the EU is strong in enforcing its regulatory scheme, forcing all participants in the European energy market to act according to the rules, while promoting a pro-diversification policy, it will make a significant difference, said Ristori. However, he said that these measures will not be determined by the United States.

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.