On Friday, the State Department published a draft of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL, which will inform the president’s decision later this year to approve or not approve the construction of the transboundary pipeline that could deliver an estimate 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil to the United States.
In a conference call on Friday, Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones noted that the EPA will officially publish the draft report in about a week for a 45-day public comment period. The president’s decision will come later this year, likely in the summer.
The 2,000-page report evaluates a number of issues, including the greenhouse gas emissions associated with Canadian oil sands and possible alternatives to the pipeline for transporting oil sands to the United States, including rail transport.
The oil sands, referred to in the draft report as Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crudes, “are more GHG-intensive than the other heavy crudes they would replace or displace in U.S. refineries, and emit an estimated 17 percent more GHGs on a life-cycle basis than the average barrel of crude oil refined in the United States in 2005,” according to the report. “If the proposed Project were to induce growth in the rate of extraction in the oil sands, then it could cause GHG emissions greater than just its direct emissions.”
There was quite a bit of attention on the Hill yesterday as Senator Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee to succeed Leon Panetta as defense secretary, met with the Senate Armed Services Committee in a daylong confirmation hearing. But while observers were captivated by the proceedings, other events on the Hill made headlines and are worth noting.
Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced new legislation that could foster U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade with U.S. strategic partners. According to The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog: “The ‘Expedited LNG for American Allies Act’ would put NATO allies and Japan, which is seeking to expand imports as most of its nuclear capacity remains offline, on equal footing with the formal free-trade partners.”
While the proposed legislation names Japan and NATO countries in particular, The Hill also reported that the law could facilitate LNG trade with other strategic partners as well: “In addition to Japan and NATO countries, the new Senate bill would also require DOE to approve exports to other countries if the State Department, in consultation with the Defense Department, determines that it would promote U.S. security interests.”
Senator Barrasso issued a statement about the bill, noting that: “This will expand economic opportunities across America and help lower our nation's trade deficit. Our bill will also promote the energy security of key U.S. allies by helping reduce their dependence on oil and gas from countries, such as Russia and Iran.”
I noted in my January 9 post on the “Top U.S. Security and Foreign Policy Trends to Track in 2013” that U.S. policymakers are likely to develop a clearer position on the future of U.S. natural gas exports. Developments on this issue could happen faster that I initially suspected and are worth watching closely.
North America’s monopoly over shale gas and tight oil production won’t last forever. But there’s good reason to believe that the rest of the world will be laggards for awhile.
Steve LeVine at Quartz writes that despite massive shale potential outside of the North America, those deposits are far from being economically viable to exploit. “[D]rillers have yet not managed to economically drill for shale deposits anywhere else,” LeVine writes. “The difference is mainly in the shale geology—drillers have vastly more data on US shale than for any other place on the planet, and have not felt confident yet in what they have found in Europe, China or elsewhere.”
LeVine is correct that economics is a major driver in whether those resources will be recovered anytime soon. But other reasons abound as well. Most of the world’s oilfield services and the physical infrastructure associated with production (pipes, drill bits and other equipment), for example, are located in North America. That is why the immediate event preceding any major shale production outside North America won’t be an announcement that a company has signed a deal to develop the resources; it will be, as LeVine writes, “a company announcing investment in actual production infrastructure.”
Of course, beyond what the industry can control, other factors play into whether shale resources will be exploitable abroad as well. Access to the water resources needed to develop them is paramount. More importantly, sustainable access to water may be difficult to come by – especially for countries rich in shale resources but water scarce, like China and Australia. It is another important example of the water-energy nexus.
So North America will continue to monopolize shale production for now. The question for foreign policy types is whether or not that is a good thing. In 2010, the State Department launched its Unconventional Gas Technical Program aimed at helping other countries develop the skills and technology necessary to safely and economically exploit their shale resources. What other activities can or should the U.S. government be promoting? Are there public-private sector ventures worth pursuing? Or should the United States just enjoy its monopoly on shale production?
Natural resource and environmental issues have gained more attention from the national security and foreign policy communities in recent years– from concerns related to the U.S. rare earth supply chain to opportunities that might accrue from America’s growing abundance of natural gas. Which ones might get pressing attention in 2013? Here’s a list of the top U.S. policy trends I’ll be watching in 2013, in no particular order.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University on “Energy Diplomacy in the 21st Century” where she outlined three pillars of America’s energy foreign policy strategy: energy diplomacy; energy transformation; and energy poverty. (See the details of those three pillars at the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources.)
In her speech, Secretary Clinton made explicit ties between energy and climate change:
“[E]nergy is essential to how we will power our economy and manage our environment in the 21st century,” Secretary Clinton said. “We therefore have an interest in promoting new technologies and sources of energy – especially including renewables – to reduce pollution, to diversify the global energy supply, to create jobs, and to address the very real threat of climate change.”
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers a speech on “Energy Diplomacy in the 21st Century” at Georgetown University on October 18, 2012. Courtesy of the U.S. State Department.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in a roundtable on water security while visiting the United Nations in New York, raising the security profile of water among delegates at the UN General Assembly meeting.
In a speech in March honoring World Water Day, Secretary Clinton said that water is “an essential ingredient of global peace, stability, and security.” She added: “We think it actually is our duty and responsibility to make sure that this water issue stays at the very top of America’s foreign policy and national security agenda.”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks earlier this year coincided with the release of the intelligence community’s Global Water Security report, a study commissioned by the State Department to analyze the effect of water on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. “This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Secretary Clinton said of the report.
Yesterday, Secretary Clinton reiterated her clarion call for action to address the growing global water crisis, drawing on the intelligence community's findings to frame water as a security issue.
“Now, this year alone in the United States, we’ve experienced extreme drought conditions in some parts of our country and devastating floods in others. We are well aware that Europe, Asia, and Africa have all experienced similar challenges. Now, you’ve already heard about our Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, and I hope that you will have if you didn’t today have a chance to really study it, because water scarcity could have profound implications for security,” Secretary Clinton said yesterday.
“The report found that dwindling supplies and poor management of water resources will certainly affect millions of people as food and crops grow scarcer and access to water more difficult to obtain. In fact, in some places, the water tables are already more depleted than we thought and wells are drying up.”
Read Secretary Clinton’s full remarks here.
All eyes are on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her visit to the Asia Pacific this week.
On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton met with officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Jakarta where she encouraged ASEAN leaders to work cooperatively with China to resolve the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. “The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims ... but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force," Secretary Clinton said, according to a report on CBSNews.com. "That is why we encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive code of conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements."
The U.S. government took several steps over the weekend to reassure Afghans that America will not abandon their country once the NATO combat mission ends in 2014. Although the assurances do not include a security commitment to Afghanistan per se, the Obama administration and other international partners have agreed to continue development assistance aimed at improving the tenuous security environment.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton elevated Afghanistan’s role as a strategic partner of the United States. “The United States declared Afghanistan a major, non-NATO ally on Saturday, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton personally delivering the news of Afghanistan’s entry into a club that includes Israel, Japan, Pakistan and other close Asian and Middle Eastern allies,” The New York Times reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store on a tour of an Arctic research vessel while visiting Tromso, Norway on June 2, 2012. “The world increasingly looks to the North," Secreatry Clinton told reporters following the two-hour tour. “Our goal is certainly to promote peaceful cooperation,” she added.
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. State Department
As I mentioned last week on World Water Day, the intelligence community released its assessment on Global Water Security, timed very well I thought with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's launch of the new U.S. Water Program. Special thanks to our friends (and my former colleagues) across the way at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program for writing this thoughtful piece on the new intelligence community assessment that originally appeared on the New Security Beat blog.
By Schuyler Null, Managing Editor of the New Security Beat
Alongside and in support of Secretary Clinton’s announcement of a new State Department-led water security initiative last week was the release of a global water security assessment by the National Intelligence Council and Director of National Intelligence. The aim of the report? Answer the question: “How will water problems (shortages, poor water quality, or floods) impact U.S. national security interests over the next 30 years?”
1) Over the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests. Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems – when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions – contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.