October 17, 2016

CNAS Releases Report on an Energy Security Strategy for the Next President

Washington, October 17 – The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Energy, Economics, and Security Program has released a new report providing an energy security strategy for the next Administration. The report, “Increasing Prosperity, Resource Stewardship, and National Security: An Energy Policy Strategy for the Next President,” is part of CNAS’ Papers for the Next President Series. The Series is designed to assist the next president and his or her team in crafting a strong, pragmatic, and principled national security agenda. The reports authors are:

  • David L. Goldwyn, Chairman of the Atlantic Council’s Energy Advisory Group and former State Department Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs
  • Robert McNally, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and former Senior Director for International Energy on the National Security Council
  • Elizabeth Rosenberg, Director of the CNAS Energy, Economics, and Security Program

The policy recommendations in the report include:

  • Prioritize modernization of energy infrastructure as an urgent national priority.
  • Reverse Congress’ decision to draw down a substantial amount of emergency oil reserves to plug budget holes unrelated to energy security.
  • Create a formal Assistant Secretary of State position for the Bureau of Energy Resources.
  • Establish a high-level, White House-led, interagency coordinating mechanism to address energy policy issues.
  • Increase federal investment in new and advanced energy technologies.
  • Signal strong support for the use of natural gas in new international power-generation projects.
  • Prioritize vastly improved collection and dissemination of global energy market data.

The full report is available online

Please find the Executive Summary of the report below:

On January 20, 2017, a new U.S. president will take the oath of office. He or she will assume responsibility for assuring the safe, reliable, and affordable provision of energy for the country, a critical component of the economic health and security of the nation. This task will involve addressing a number of grave deficiencies in current energy policy and prioritizing several urgent energy initiatives. Laying a strong, early basis for new energy policy will enable the incoming administration to set the country on a path to aligning national energy capabilities and technological developments with economic and security needs, now and in the future.

Energy touches all facets of life. The next generation of federal leaders must prioritize a sober approach to the following fundamental realities of our national energy system:

  • The national electricity grid will have to accommodate, in a safe and reliable manner, the integration of increasing renewable energy sources and new technologies.
  • Oil and gas will remain the dominant fuel source to power the global economy.
  • The rise in domestic energy production over the last decade presents economic, climatic, and security benefits on which the next president can build.
  • Instability in key oil producing regions – primarily the Middle East, Africa, and Russia – will remain a significant source of economic and energy security concern for the United States.
  • The aging domestic energy transportation system, including railways, pipelines, ports, and inland waterways, is in need of significant improvement and is vulnerable to critical infrastructure threats.
  • Political leaders must continue to address environmental and community concerns about the impacts of oil and gas development in order to sustain this critical industry and economic input.
  • Climate change cannot be ignored, and national leaders must directly address this topic through a focus on research, development, and deployment of new energy technologies.
  • National leaders must advance a comprehensive view of energy security to encompass supply, trade, efficiency, infrastructure, development of technologies, resiliency, and emergency response.

Facing these structural elements of the energy system head-on in new policy will enable the next president to mitigate vulnerabilities that will continue to threaten U.S. prosperity and security: unrest and supply disruption in major producing countries, and the price shock–related consequences disruptions could pose to such countries and global consumers. At home, energy system vulnerabilities include aging and at-risk infrastructure, including transportation systems. They also include the deeply politicized public debates about energy production and natural resource stewardship. 

This report outlines for the next administration a bipartisan agenda to advance sound energy policy in the first 100 days after inauguration and in the years ahead. Partisanship and local interests have created deep and difficult-to-surmount policy impediments. In many instances and forums, divisive debate about science, environmental effects of energy production, and how to monitor, permit, and regulate energy activities block progress toward creating more contemporary and cost-effective energy policy. A sustained effort at the executive level to forge common ground, building on some recent examples of success, can achieve progress. Indeed, this must be a priority for resilience, U.S. strength, and global leadership. 

Among top energy policy initiatives, the next president should prioritize electricity grid upgrades, energy transport modernization, proactive energy diplomacy, a stronger federal central coordinating mechanism for policy division. While a broad array of stakeholders and representatives of both political parties agree that the current policy and regulatory approach to climate change is not ideal and far from the most cost-effective, there is very limited common ground in this domain. Notwithstanding the difficulty of sustaining constructive public debate on climate change, this effort will be critically important for future leaders to advance a holistic treatment of energy interests and policy. 

The next president will achieve energy-system and economic success if he or she can enact reasonable and depoliticized standards for energy production that are technology-neutral and cost-effective. Furthermore, a crucial measure of the next administration’s contribution to U.S. national security will be the degree to which national leaders promulgate a broad formulation of energy security, including managing economic vulnerabilities, that permanently discards a narrow emphasis on domestic self-sufficiency. Instead, the next president and his or her team must advance energy policy at home and abroad by attending simultaneously to conventional production, trade, efficiency, renewables, new technology, cyber security, resiliency, and emergency preparedness. This approach will lay a strong foundation for U.S. energy policy going forward and affirm the status of the country as a clear global leader on energy. 

The report’s authors are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, please contact Neal Urwitz at nurwitz@cnas.org or 202-457-9409.