November 16, 2011

In Brief: State Department Refocuses Efforts to Manage Energy Geopolitics

The State Department’s new Bureau of Energy Resources will open today in a reorganization of the department’s efforts to manage the geopolitical implications of energy resources. According to its 2010 inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the department’s new bureau will “unite our diplomaticand programmatic efforts on oil, natural gas, coal, electricity, renewable energy,energy governance, strategic resources, and energy poverty.” This includes promoting clean and alternative forms of energy, especially through diplomatic efforts to encourage countries like China to reduce its import tariffs on foreign-made clean energy technologies. At last week’s APEC summit in Honolulu, President Obama called on Asia-Pacific states to reduce their tariffs on energy and other environmental technologies to 5 percent. "We will unabashedly support the export of U.S. technology, working with countries to put in a level playing field," said Carlos Pascual, former ambassador to the Ukraine and Mexico, who will lead the new energy bureau. Ultimately, Pascual told The Wall Street Journal, the bureau’s goal will be to manage the "geopolitics of the energy world."

The new bureau opens as tensions around energy resources in the South China Sea continue to grow. Today, while traveling in the Philippines, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States seeks a peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where states such as China, the Philippines and Vietnam are competing in part for claims to potentially rich deposits of oil and natural gas. “We are strongly of the opinion that disputes that...exist primarily in the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China should be resolved peacefully," Secretary Clinton said in a joint briefing with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, according to The Wall Street Journal. "The United States does not take a position on any territorial claim because any nation with a claim has a right to assert it. But they do not have a right to pursue it through intimidation or coercion." Meanwhile, China has preemptively rejected any discussion of the South and East China Seas ahead of this week’s annual East Asia Summit in Bali, where Asia-Pacific leaders will meet to discuss, among other issues, maritime security – including territorial disputes in those contested waters.