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Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security, US Department of State
Chief Executive Officer, Eni
President of International, Bank of America
Executive Vice President of Programs, The Rockefeller Foundation
Senior Director, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council
LANDON DERENTZ: I’m Landon Derentz. I’m the senior director of the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center and I’m really excited to welcome each of you back to the seventh annual Global Energy Forum as we build on what was, really, a remarkable and incredible morning featuring Their Excellencies—His Excellency Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Minister Suhail Mazrouei, Minister Saad al-Kaabi, and, of course, Minister Grant Shapps.
When I joined the Atlantic Council last year and we began to build towards this forum, I gravitated towards one issue: How do we incorporate a conversation about financing all aspects of the energy transition, both conventional and clean?
We heard this morning the world is short energy today, and without investing trillions of dollars into the zero-emissions technologies and infrastructure we need we’ll be short energy tomorrow. As we shift to the next segment of the program, I’m really excited because we’re lucky to have the experts that can help us start to break down the financial barriers to accelerate the energy transition.
Before we have a panel discussion hosted by Hadley Gamble, to kick off this discussion I’m thrilled to invite to the stage one of the strongest voices in global energy policy in Washington, DC, maybe even globally, and bring to the forum his deep policy, diplomatic, and industry expertise.
So please join me in welcoming Amos Hochstein, special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security. Welcome, Amos.
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Morning, and thank you, Landon. It’s good to be back in a place where I can be working with you and in your new role in the Atlantic Council. Really, congratulations both to you and to the Atlantic Council, and, really, congratulations to the Atlantic Council for convening again because when the Atlantic Council has this gathering, as I think, Dr. Sultan says, it’s setting the agenda for the year, for 2023, and as we look at setting the agenda, I think before we can set that agenda we have to look, I think, in review of 2022 and to see what kind of lessons we need to learn and what we’ve learned.
Now, 2022 is packed with a lot of things that happened. So I want to focus on the many lessons that we need to learn on—within the energy sector.
This is a year where the energy markets were upended, not by market fundamentals but, rather, by missiles, tanks, and bullets as a horrific assault of one country on its neighbor, invasion, the aggressor being a major energy supplier, which then impacts the markets and really changed—as we sort of talked about a little bit earlier, changing the flows of energy in a way that we never thought would ever happen but also we probably would think was never possible.
How could Europe possibly survive not one but two winters without flows from Russia? And, yet, that’s exactly what has been unfolding and we’re still in that process of trying to figure out how do you redirect energy around the world, both in gas, oil, and upon us on February 5 is the EU ban on oil products, and that is a change that we saw fundamentally in 2022, [and] we have to think about what does that mean.
And one of the things that that means as we focus on the energy transition is we have to do so while ensuring that we have adequate supplies in the market, and how do we do two things at the very same time? How do we make sure that commodities are priced—first of all, commodities are available and are priced in a way that support economic growth, especially as the world is facing increased inflation concerns and, potentially, a recession and trying to battle against that?
How do we make sure that we focus on that transition, but we do have enough investment in increased production that supports the years of the energy transition to make sure we have those commodities and priced appropriately?
And while we do that, we have to invest in accelerating the energy transition and that means increasing investment in [the] deployment of renewable energy and advancing clean technology. In 2022, the US Congress passed the largest investment in energy, climate, and energy transition that we’ve ever seen in the United States. And while we’re seeing that, we know that that investment is coming, and we’re going to look at 2023 as the year of implementation. And we know that to do that, we have to think about the last two years were about getting the tools—in the United States at least, getting the tools from Congress, getting the funding that we needed in this investment.
But as we go forward, now it’s all about implementation. It’s all about making sure that we can have the resources to invest. And we’re already seeing that ahead of 2023 taking shape in the United States. We’ve seen record investments in solar, wind, electric vehicle, battery supply chains, materials, and products from mining to processing—opening the first mining sector in the United States that we’ve seen in many, many decades; the first cobalt mine opening in Idaho this year. These are things we haven’t seen in the United States in a very long time. And what that means is that we can ensure a diversified energy security for the future.
So as we’ve talked about for the last twenty years energy diversification, and we talked about oil and gas, we now have to have the exact same conversation for energy diversification in the energy of the future. And as we do that, that is the agreement that we signed with PACE that was mentioned before between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, a Partnership to Accelerate Clean Energy, to invest together one hundred billion in these technologies.
But here is the thing that was blocking us. Here is what’s not working. As we hear financial institutions and the private sector and governments around the world talking about hundreds of billions of dollars into trillions of dollars of commitments and pledges to invest in the energy transition, we have to talk more about where are those dollars being deployed. They’re being deployed increasingly only in OECD and developed countries, and not in developing countries and middle-income countries. And that’s because there’s a barrier to finance. And that barrier to finance is risk—whether it’s commodity risk or it’s currency risk or ESG risk or—well, the E of ESG or the G of ESG—and reputational risks. And therefore, the easier dollar is always going to be spent somewhere in the United States or in Germany or in Australia, or in Chile, and that’s as far down as we go when it comes to the developing and middle-income countries.
And that’s the—that’s the kind of discussion we need to have, is how do we come together to de-risk. What is the role of government? What is the role of banks? What is the role of private equity? What are the roles of multilateral development institutions and financial institutions [in de-risking] these projects? What are the kinds of steps that can be taken so that we don’t just have examples of a project here and there, but actually have a de-risking of these projects so that they are not just investment opportunities or charity or development, but they are bankable projects? And I think that’s the challenge that we’re going to face as we go into the future if we really want to have an equitable energy transition. And if you want to fight climate change, it can’t be done in one group of countries and not in another.
So I’m looking forward to this panel. I’m looking forward to the next couple of days as we look at how we manage this energy transition…
HADLEY GAMBLE: Good morning, everybody, once again, and welcome to the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Forum. I’m here to join you to talk about something that is very close to all of our hearts and minds, and at a time when energy security has never equaled national security in quite the same way.
We’re going to be talking about financing a sustainable and inclusive energy transition. Amos you know. I want to introduce the rest of my panel. Liz Yee. She is the executive vice president at the Rockefeller Foundation. I’m also speaking to Claudio Descalzi, of course, the CEO of Eni; and Bernie Mensah, the president of international at Bank of America. Panelists, welcome and thank you so much for joining us.
I want to kick it off, actually, with Amos. Just to sort of follow on to the situation that we find ourselves in today, it’s no secret that the oil and gas community in the United States had high hopes, if you will, of the fact that the Republicans would be taking the House and what that could potentially mean for their agenda in the United States. But given what we saw over the last couple of weeks and their seeming inability to elect a speaker, do you think those hopes are misfounded?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Speaking of energy finance…
HADLEY GAMBLE: You know me so well.
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, first, I think there were high hopes for the Republicans, for winning the House and the Senate. I think they’re willing to look at the House or maybe now they’re happy they only won the House.
Look, I think it’s not about politics on this issue. It’s—
HADLEY GAMBLE: Of course it is.
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Politics govern so much of what we do in order [to] be able to get things done.
But what I said before is what I really mean. We’ve gotten a lot of tools from Congress. Congress has passed enormous amounts of funding for energy, for [the] energy transition. So I think where we need to be now is working with the oil and gas sector.
And you know, the Biden administration is clearly going to have continued disagreements on many issues with the oil and gas sector in the United States. It is no secret. I don’t need to say it another way. We’re going to have disagreements. But I think we can also come together in dialogue to understand that we are living through an extraordinary time—a time of a war in Europe that is affecting the energy market… that we are coming out of COVID, the demand is rising, and we’re all battling together to make sure we don’t have an inflationary pressure. So I think the dialogue that we need to have with the oil and gas sector in the United States is how do we have an increase in production, how do we take extraordinary profits and invest them right back into America, into additional production.
I think that’s not going to be about Congress. We’re going to hear a lot of investigations and hearings, and Congress will do what Congress does. But I think we have to keep our eye on the ball, and that is to make sure we have enough production in the United States and around the world while we do everything else to invest in the energy transition. We know we need it, and we know that we have a horizon that is long enough to justify those investments.
HADLEY GAMBLE: It’s tough to engage with the American oil and gas community when you’re telling them that they’re acting in an un-American way by giving profits back to their shareholders. Isn’t that capitalism? And capitalism, doesn’t that pay for our ability to be a democracy and project our values?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: So, Hadley, as you and I have discussed before, in prior discussions, what I mean about when I say un-American, there’s no accusation of companies’ motivations and companies how they’re working. But when you’re in a place where as a result of this extraordinary year, the two best quarters in 150 years are both in the same year, and you compare the profit level of companies with the historic arc of translating profits on a sustained basis within investment in [capital expenditure (CAPEX)], we’re a little bit of a mismatch of—based or in a correlation to historic trends. And therefore, if you are going to have those [kinds] of profits—and these are not revenues; these are profits—on a sustained basis and not invest, that is not what [the] American business community has done for the last hundred-plus years. And we want to go back to the way it normally is, that when there is an extraordinary event, when there are large profits, when there’s justification for additional capital expenditures, the companies do that.
And to be fair, that’s exactly what’s happened over the last couple of months and weeks. We have heard more American companies announce that they are increasing CAPEX for 2023. Their projection for increased production in 2023 is going up as well. We’re having those conversations not just with American companies, but with companies both public, private, and state-owned to have the same exact conversation across the board.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Is a windfall tax still on the cards for 2023?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: I’m going to leave that conversation for—if that’s a tool that we need, then we can talk about it. It is not on the table at the moment.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Bernie, I want to bring you in and talk a little bit more about the finance side of things. When you look at what’s happening in the United States today, obviously when it comes to governing, a divided house is not necessarily what you want from a policy perspective, but from a markets perspective, from a finance perspective, from a banking perspective, tied-up House and Senate actually means markets can look forward to a bit of status quo.
How difficult, in your mind, is 2023 going to be for the financing of projects that we’re talking about today?
BERNARD MENSAH: Thanks, Hadley. Thanks for having me here, and great to be here this week.
I think for us in finance the big issue is what the central banks are doing, and I think that’s what’s driving global flows. The deposits taken by the largest banks—and we all announced our results yesterday through the pandemic—increased a lot. I think our balance sheet at Bank of America went up from something like 2.3, 2.4 trillion dollars to about 3 trillion dollars, some of that because of all the stimulus money that came in.
But I think one of the most important macro issues that we’re all facing is that for ten years, central banks have expanded their balance sheets enormously, by trillions of dollars. I think cumulatively Japan, Europe, United Kingdom, and the United States, maybe ten trillion, something like that. They’ve all said, we’re shrinking our balance sheets back down, and we’re feeling that ripple effect. And I think after ten years of expansion, it’s going to take more than a quarter or two for that to feed through. And we’ll all have to adjust from zero rates, negative rates. I’m not sure if it’s a headwind, but it will be a reallocation of all of those excess savings in the marketplace, and we’ll deal with that, and we’re very well set up and able to deal with that.
And everybody is watching what happens to just, you know, overall savings rates, et cetera. Within that there’s a huge amount of capacity to lend and to drive changes, and I’m sure we’ll touch on this later. And I absolutely sympathize with what Amos has been saying, which is getting the capital and the balance sheet to the right place. There is a huge amount of excess savings in the world—in this region, in Japan, in Northern Europe, in the United States, and our job in finance is—that’s what we do. We take money from the savers and give it to those that want to invest it, and we’ve done it very well in the standard model of the oil and gas sector. As we move into this new sector, that’s the challenge. And that’s why I’m here; that’s why we’re all super engaged.
HADLEY GAMBLE: So less the politics and more the central bank policy.
BERNARD MENSAH: Yeah, the central bank policy is an important—this is in oil and gas. I don’t want to turn it into a finance piece, but it’s something that we—not that we grapple with, but I think in finance we’re cognizant of the fact that that expansion of central bank balance sheets was massive. It drove massive underlying flows, and when it stops and it’s starting to shrink, it will have impacts definitely.
HADLEY GAMBLE: No doubt. No doubt.
Claudio, I want to bring you in on this just a little bit more broadly. Earlier we had the chance to hear from two of our, frankly, experts in the field: His Excellency, Suhail Al Mazrouei, the UAE’s energy minister, as well as Saad Al Kaabi, the energy minister from Qatar, two gentlemen that I have interviewed on multiple occasions. And we heard some comments about 2023 and what that should look like. And one of the comments was that we should forgive Russia. How difficult is that to hear?
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: We have to forget Russia or—
HADLEY GAMBLE: Forgive.
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: Ah, forgive. (Laughter).
No, I don’t know. I think that the war is still there, and it’s not easy to forgive anybody when you kill people, or innocent people, or women and children, and bomb hospitals…(audio breaks).
HADLEY GAMBLE: Bernie, in terms of those financial instruments, what does this look like to you?
BERNARD MENSAH: It has solutions for this. I think it looks like a lot of—I think it looks like a lot of just engagement… across different parts of the capital structure. So… just have a different risk appetite although they’ll have different, you know, return metrics that they might want, which is different to what shareholders of Eni might want or what just my bank, others. We’ve got a structure financing that’s been growing… then you call somebody that Amos might know and he might come in, or she, and figure out how to make that work. The Indonesian just energy structure was interesting. It started off in South Africa.
Perhaps my specific piece is trying to make sure that we do it at scale as quickly as possible. At the moment, my sense is [there are] lots of smaller things. There’s an element of, oh, isn’t this cool, we’ve done this innovative thing for this piece here. But it hasn’t really lit a fire, as I might say. But practically, those things are—those things are happening.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah.
One of the comments that we heard earlier from Mr. Mazrouei, he was, essentially, saying the challenges, the things that he’s worried about, and he said another year of high price fluctuation. Amos, in your mind, is the United States prepared for prices at a hundred dollars? Because when we spoke yesterday on CNBC, there have been suggestions that we could see prices at a hundred, $110 a barrel, and you told me, I just don’t know if prices will get there.
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: And since yesterday, I still don’t know. But I think that there’s a—look, it’s not for us to—we have to prepare for different scenarios and what we’ve done over the last eighteen months in hyperdrive has been to work with consumers and suppliers around the clock.
I mean, I’ve—before the war started, I was making calls to Claudio to ask him, in different scenarios what happens? How do you surge capacity in different markets? And I called others to do the same thing—how do we figure out what that is?
I can’t control what the price is going to be. What I can control is what our reactions are and we had a weird market wherein gas—global prices were rising but it was because of an event. We were taking a product off. A producer took its product off the market all of a sudden in natural gas. We now have—the EU passed a ban on crude and a ban on products. We have a price cap on crude. We may have a price cap on products that would come into play in a few weeks from now. We have to see. We’re all in discussions on that.
So we are—this is a—this is not a regular market where there’s just price fluctuation based on supply and demand. There are real geopolitical events that are affecting that. So I think we do have to be prepared for higher prices and what our responses are. We will be prepared for that. We are looking at those scenarios. We have to be prepared for the reverse and what happens if prices decline and go to a lower level, and how are we opportunistic in the market there in order to continue to ensure our future.
So this is going to be a really fluid dynamic. I don’t know what’s—I think Claudio is right in one fundamental way, and I think His Excellency Minister Mazrouei, as you just quoted, that this year is going to be about the war, and what happens in the war, if it escalates or if it dissipates, will determine where the price and what the price environment that we’re all in. And we’re going to have to all get together and have this conversation. And that’s going to go towards the financial sector in the United States and around the world, the oil and gas sector, and the governments to figure out how do we prepare for it.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah. You’ve used the Strategic Petroleum Reserve repeatedly to address price fluctuation. Some people would say successfully, others would say you got lucky or it was a blip. What else is on the table?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Look, let me just correct you. We didn’t use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve because of price fluctuations. We’ve had plenty of price fluctuations in the past. We had years of prices above a hundred dollars and we didn’t use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We used the SPR as the result of a crisis that was causing price fluctuations, and there’s a big difference. The previous time we used the SPR was during the Libya war when nearly two million barrels came off the market overnight. It’s not the fluctuation that you’re addressing; it’s the fact that there’s an underlying security crisis that is an emergency. And that’s what the SPR is. We’ve used it, as you said, in extraordinary [circumstances].
If you remember, in June we were at over $120 a barrel. Today, we’re at eighty dollars or so. So if those who argue that adding a million barrels a day doesn’t matter, then it shouldn’t matter in any event. So I think that’s a bit hard to argue.
We’ve used—we have more that we can use in the future. I think that we worked together with Congress and canceled the mandated releases 2024 through 2027. That’s a significant amount of oil that the market was expecting that would be released from the SPR. Well, we canceled it. In this price environment, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. And we will at the same time continue to use that if a crisis emerges or one that will affect consumers in the United States and around the world. And I think the alternative of going into a recession as a result of exceeding energy prices is probably not advantageous.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah.
Claudio, how difficult is the price environment for you today in Europe? Because we’re talking about recession. We’re talking about the worries about central bank policy. And frankly, in the United Kingdom, they are already there.
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: So the price is not really the main problem because after eight years of very low prices other companies, our company immediately reacted so—because we cannot control the price, we had to control, ourselves, the cost. And we reduced what we call the cash neutrality, so the total breakeven. We can imagine that in 2012, 2013 the average cash neutrality for a company was $110, $100 per barrel. Now it is about less than forty dollars per barrel. It means that with a price at forty dollars a barrel, you can survive. Maybe you break even, but you can go ahead. So there [is] a lot of efficiency that we can create.
The issue outside is that—so outside our company—what you said before. We have a situation over a gap between demand and supply. And the supply is low because we didn’t invest. And after COVID and after the war, we realized that the hydrocarbon demand with coal we can say is inelastic. Ten, twenty years ago we thought that now the gas demand in Europe was 50 percent less; the same. And in China, it’s seven or eight times more. So there is a big increase of gas demand, and that was good because coal went down. Now coal is ramping again. So we have this issue that we have to invest.
And investing now is not easy. You must have the right key performance indicator to go to bank and ask for money because what we are doing still is link our bond or our financing process to sustainability link bonds. We have been the first last year to have a framework that we presented, and then after one month we issued bond. Sustainability bond means that you have to set a path out to 2050 where you must be net zero. You must have intermediate targets, so 2026, 2030, 2035, 2040, 2045, 2050. And you have to demonstrate in term of renewables, [carbon dioxide], greenhouse gas emissions, methane emissions, scope one, two, and three. So is a—is a matrix over a lot of elements, certified. You go to the bank and say: I need this because I have this. And if you’re not able to be compliant, you pay a penalty in term of cost of money. So it’s quite complex. A big company can do that. Small companies, much, much more difficult, so they cannot get money to invest in the upstream. So the process is this for the investment.
Then—and we talked before—the supply chain, there is a big disruption. So now there is hub. There is onshoring, nearshoring. And after COVID, we have a regional hub that try to be self-sufficient because they realize that if they need something it was not like before that you buy also if the product is built—is manufactured in somewhere else. No. Now the main and critical issue to survive must be in your country. So that means a big separation. That is true for renewables, because there is now a long-distance connection. It’s true for everything. So energy. From energy you have health, food. Food is—we never talk about food, but the disruption that we have with food because of the war and because of the, I think, lack of investment especially in Africa—Africa is buying everything—is creating a very dangerous underbalance.
So I’m not worried about the price—the price I can cure the price with our internal stuff—but the rest. So if we have to increase the production to reduce the price it’s almost impossible now, first of all because upstream take six, seven years to get through with some production—maybe more if it’s a green field—and then we have this discrepancy and gap between the supply that we made in the last three years. Talk about green hydrogen, where we work, or renewable in term of continuity of energy deliver. And we are not there.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah.
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: So we have to be, I think—you know, the issue is that, it’s not for the United States, but generally speaking, that the world never talk about energy security. Never, because energy is there, Russia. And we never talk, like for the virus, we never talked about COVID. But overnight, everybody became expert. So everybody talk about COVID. Now everybody talk about energy. And that create a big mess.
HADLEY GAMBLE: (Laughs.) Are we talking about the politicians or just the—
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: No, no, I talk about—I talk about everybody.
HADLEY GAMBLE: The armchair politicians.
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: It’s a big mess because, you know, you must be competent to talk about something. You can jeopardize and kill somebody, kill—in term that you can arm somebody, because if you select the wrong solution that is much worse than the problem itself.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Do you ever believe there will be accountability for those who made decisions that actually imperiled Europe’s security with regards to Nord Stream 2, with regards to Nord Stream and to the relationship with Russia? And I’m talking about Angela Merkel and others.
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: I think that if there is no energy security plan, you know, what you can do. If there is an energy security plan, the first one is diversification of regional—of the sources, diversification—diversification of technologies, and experts permanent ready to face the issues. So that is organization and processes. If you don’t have that—and it’s not easy. You grab what you have every day and you live day by day, but that is not in an organized and rich society.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah.
Bernie, when you think about how difficult it is for you to make decisions long term, obviously, His Excellency the Qatari energy minister was talking about governance and the worry of having a four-to-eight-year time horizon on what you can do, and the security of your investment as a result of that. Now we’re seeing activist investors pushing back. We’re seeing, for example, the Florida—the state of Florida, in terms of their pension fund, they don’t agree with the ESG methods in investments, for example, of Larry Fink, and so they’ve decided to pull their money. We saw that during the Trump administration as well. To your mind, how difficult does that make your decisions? Because if you can’t—if you don’t have a long-term horizon and you’ve got to worry about, as we say, the politics—and perhaps those may or may not actually understand the energy market—it’s kind of tough to be one of the top investors.
BERNARD MENSAH: We would love a roadmap set by the politicians that says here’s the transition path, here are the transition energy sources, here’s what’s going to happen. And then that way we can, you know, figure out, you know, what the investment horizons might be, et cetera. And actually, we’re one of those highly regulated industries, so we don’t want to become a tool for that policy mix. A decision by governments—our regulators telling us what our balance sheet should look like or stressing it in this way or that or adding capital or liquidity buffers given how—what our lending book looks like. So we’re very keen to be told what the path is and then—and then to get it.
If a government says no more hydrocarbon cars in ten years or—
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: No more Claudio. (Laughter.)
BERNARD MENSAH: No more—(laughs).
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: You drop—you drop me.
BERNARD MENSAH: Then it makes a difference. So we have to manage through that. And we have huge competing interests that call on us and ask us what we’re doing with our lending, absolutely. In the United States, there are some states that have subpoenaed us—it’s public knowledge—with respect to what our lending policies are, and we have others that are the other way. I occasionally attend our annual general meeting when it’s in person, which it hasn’t been, and we have a lot of activists that are pretty aggressive about what we’re doing. So we have to navigate that, which is fine. That’s what we do. And I think that’s what we choose to do. But I think we are engaged, as is the rest of the industry, in really trying to keep that balance and to manage through.
And then the other thing I would say is, touching a little bit on where Claudio went, there is a lot of underlying infrastructure and finance as well that isn’t as visible—really boring stuff like accounting policies and disclosure policies. And we do a lot of work with middle-market companies that are in the supply chain because for Eni, for the big companies, they know what’s coming and they’ve got the resources to set themselves up for that. And we worry about a lot of people that we lend a million dollars to, two million dollars to, smaller companies that will wake up one day and find that they can’t sell their product on Amazon because Amazon says is it green or not, and they’re like, what are you talking about. So there’s a lot of nitty-gritty work. But some of the things around accounting disclosures are really dull—I could send everybody to sleep in the room—but really important, like, I think, in the energy space grids, for example, where I’m absolutely not an expert but in the last six to eight months I’ve realized how critically important it is. And I’m getting my credit investment committees to make sure that we’ve got, you know, the capital to back acquisitions, mergers, restructurings in a bunch of large, you know, grid spaces around Europe.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah.
Elizabeth, just in terms of the job situation, particularly in the United States, obviously, with the transition, depending on which side of the fence you fall, this could be a boon for US job growth, and at the same time we are hearing so much pushback from politicians who say that this is bad for business. In your research, what have you seen?
ELIZABETH YEE: I’m so glad you brought that up because I think, listening to the conversation, I want to make sure that we put people at the core of what we do. One of the things we talk about is being in the humanity business, and I do think, you know, there are, with the [Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)], with the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, there are a lot of opportunities to create jobs. You know, the transition’s going to be hard, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that from that there is a lot of opportunity to be created.
And I see my colleague Joseph Nganga in the front row. I mean, that is why, for example, at the Glasgow COP we launched the billion-and-a-half-dollar philanthropic and [nongovernmental-organization] alliance called the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, which is focused on energy access for the eight hundred million to a billion people who don’t have reliable energy and want to be part of the modern economy and need to be part of the modern economy. But in so doing, it’s not just the carbon. It’s really thinking about how do we actually create the millions and millions of jobs that need to happen. How do we make sure—Hadley, we were talking about, too—women, half the planet, we need access to jobs.
And we have seen when we actually put women at the center of what we do—and we’ve been working in India, I think just to your point, Bernard, one of the things that the Global Energy Alliance does is it supports small developers to be able to deploy mini-grids to places that don’t have access to energy so that we have clean energy in communities that don’t currently have that opportunity. If we do that, we create jobs in the community so that they understand and they have a chance to be part of the green economy. We electrify communities. We’ve seen household incomes rise by 30 percent. So I think if we can continue to do that, both in emerging markets but also, Amos, in our home country, I think there is a lot of things that we can tap into to create the jobs of the future that we need for the transition.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Amos, the Inflation Reduction Act, a major win for the Biden administration, landmark legislation, but has ruffled feathers, as you know, in Europe. And apparently, they’re even considering a Buy European Act to counter what they see as unfair practices. There was even the suggestion that we could see in the coming weeks a move to file a complaint against the United States at the World Trade Organization over this. When you take a step back and think about this a bit more broadly, how dangerous is it that in the moves to the energy transition, because they are coming from very different governments and very different situations, we could undermine the strategic alliance of the West?
AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, first, I think it would be difficult to say that the Biden administration is undermining the alliance. I think the—really the last eighteen months have been all about strengthening the alliance. And I, in twenty-seven years in working in Washington in both energy and foreign policy, have never seen the alliance stronger, in fact. And I think one of the things that Putin underestimated the most and was surprised the most was the strength of the alliance, both the transatlantic one—NATO—but then beyond that into global alliances from Middle East to Asia and around the world. So I think the alliance is strong.
I think you saw President Macron’s visit in Washington a few weeks ago where President Biden addressed this issue directly and said that we’re going to be working with the EU. We have a task force that’s working between the Commission and the United States. We’re working also with other countries that affect.
The IRA is an enormous success. I mean, it is a remarkable investment in clean energy that nobody ever expected the United States to do. In fact, most people inside the United States who spend a lot of money trying to figure out what’s about to happen in America did not know that this legislation would pass, and it did. And it has some things, as when you do large pieces of legislation like this that are transforming the economy into the future, there are going to be some things that we got to fix and we have to address. And we’re working with our allies to be able to address them.
But I think that that should not be the distraction towards what we are achieving. One, unemployment is at the lowest rate it has been in a very, very, very long time in the United States—talking, Elizabeth, to your point about putting people at the center of this. The IRA is driving investment from around the world and inside the United States in a sector that—what have we been all saying since Paris? That we want to drive investment and incentivize investment in an energy transition. That’s what the IRA was supposed to do, and that’s what it—I’ve never seen something translate so quickly, and we’re already seeing those investments in the United States in this sector. We’re doing things we haven’t done in a long time. We are diversifying a global economic engine of renewable energy from one single-source supplier, which is where we are heading, into a much more diversified sector. So I think the IRA is incredibly important.
And I think we’re going to be fine with the—in the alliance, but I think it’s important for countries to follow suit, not in the way you described, but in creating these incentives across the board. We need more of that. And if you think about some of the things that we are depending on—so just on the critical minerals, and I know we’ll talk about it during this conference—some of the processing facilities that don’t exist yet that we are going to be building now, if they are built on time and in the broadest term—sort of expectation of what they hope the size will be, it will still only supply us, in the near term, 15 percent, 20 percent of what the United States’ demand is.
So we need these kinds of incentives across the board and around the world for countries to incentivize investment, and that’s what Claudio was talking about when he says that a carbon tax—what does a carbon tax do in Europe? It incentivized him to invest in [the current cost of supplies].
And what Bernie is talking about—if you have these kinds of incentives, then he is going to unlock in his investment committee the dollars that need to go to this. That’s what the IRA does; it’s not about isolating the United States from the rest of the world; it’s about sending a message that’s a clear message across the world we need to incentivize investment because on its own, it’s not going to happen. We have this mantra of the market will fix it, the market will address it. The market will not fix it, the market will not address it. And investments into transforming the global energy system is not going to happen. We need to build a lot more across the whole spectrum.
Look at nuclear. We need to have a lot more nuclear if we want to reach any of these goals, whether it’s traditional nuclear, or it’s SMRs, or future fusion investment that we need to do. But to do that, the market on its own is not going to do it. We have to create government spending and signal sending to the market that if we’re willing to make the small dollar investment, that will leverage the larger dollar investment.
And so I think that all of these things are not signs of weakness in the alliance; on the contrary, I think they are signals of strength of the alliance. We’ll get past it; I assure you we’re going to be fine.
HADLEY GAMBLE: More time in Brussels for me.
Gentlemen—Claudio, you had a point?
CLAUDIO DESCALZI: Do I finish, or? No, I just want one comment on what Amos said about the need to give incentive or—not subsidy, incentive through the investment. It’s true, and it’s not—a gap between the United States and Europe is a general gap also inside Europe because you can do that also if you have the fiscal space.
HADLEY GAMBLE: Yeah, and I—
ELIZABETH YEE: Hadley, can I just add on to that for one sec? I think one of the things that I just want to make sure—I mean, it—emerging markets only have 27 percent of the flows they need to actually do the energy transition. I just don’t want to lose sight of that because I think it’s really critical to your point, Amos. And I think one of the things that I—you know, to the point of trying to create, bring together critical actors to change…
We need to fix the global financial architecture in a way that it doesn’t—that is not impeding investment from the private sector, that encourages additional investment from government. And so I think, you know, working together as a planet to achieve these goals, with all the different people coming together…
HADLEY GAMBLE: Thank you guys so much for joining.
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