September 14, 2012
Summary of the master class "How Does Energy Impact International Security?" at the 2012 Annual Members' Conference.

Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., USMC (Ret.),** former National Security Advisor
Moderated by Mr. Ian Brzezinski, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, Atlantic Council

Globalization and domestic political paralysis have stripped the US of any meaningful or effective energy policy. Additionally, as national oil companies (NOCs) have grown to unprecedented levels and global oil and gas demand is projected to increase some fifty percent by 2025, the US government is left searching for answers for how to secure America’s energy future. To address these questions and more, Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Ian Brzezinski sat down former National Security Advisors General James L. Jones for a master class session.

The session began by outlining the myriad failures of American energy policy, in particular focusing on the threat American overreliance on petroleum-based transportation fuels places on American security. In particular, participants noted the outsize influence Iran retains in the Middle East and the increasingly politicized nature of NOCs and OPEC. Any a US energy policy designed to mitigate those threats must decrease American dependence on oil.

Participants agreed that implementation this plan will require bipartisanship, leadership, scholarship, and, crucially, a unified and government-wide national energy policy under the leadership of an enhanced Secretary of Energy tasked by the President to carry it through to fruition. This new Secretary should be tasked with overseeing the various elements of US energy policy much in the same way the Director of National Intelligence is tasked with coordinating national intelligence policy among numerous agencies and bureaus. Though the creation of a unified US energy policy and possibly the issuing of a quadrennial energy review, the US will be able to increase growth, lead an international coalition to address climate change, and build national security resiliency.

During the discussion many participants asked if achieving this was a task too difficult to accomplish lacking a genuine energy crisis and during the current era of divisive energy politics and diverging views on climate change, the role of hydrocarbons in the US energy mix, and the causes and effects of global climate change. Others however stated belief that the case can be made to political leaders that taking this sort of action is imperative both for US national security and in order to tackle the challenge of climate change. The session also outlined other needs to be addressed, including: breaking down industry barriers to cooperation, simplifying an overly complex congressional oversight process, and fixing the nuclear oversight process to allow the US to once again become relevant in nuclear policy circles. The session concluded by challenging the attendees to ensure energy remains paramount in the national political conversation.