June 19, 2007 | WebMemo on Energy and Environment
While Title VII has some laudable features, the bill ignores many short- and long-term threats to U.S. energy security. Even when measured with a generous yardstick, the bill fails on multiple fronts and needs to be rethought by Republicans and Democrats alike; for the term "energy security" understates what is really at stake in this bill: the economic future of the United States.
The Good: Strategic Energy Partnerships
The bill seeks to increase international energy diplomacy and security by directing the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Energy, to establish strategic energy partnerships with major energy producing and consuming countries. It also provides for several new administrative organs: a petroleum crisis response mechanism with China and India, a Western Hemisphere energy crisis response mechanism, and a Hemisphere Energy Cooperation Forum.
The United States has long had important energy relationships, although they do not bear the official name of "strategic energy partnerships." With rising global demand for energy and the looming threat that scarcity could be used as a weapon, Title VII's diplomatic initiative is a step in the right direction. It helps ensure U.S. access to supply while promoting the United States as the preferred partner in both the political and private spheres. More countries are willing to risk diplomacy with oil-rich states like Sudan for short-term economic gains. To offset this trend and promote American values, the United States must be proactive in expanding its energy partnerships, both diplomatically and commercially.
Building on existing partnerships, the bill establishes a petroleum crisis response mechanism with China and India and countries in the Western Hemisphere to promote cooperation and prepare for supply disruptions. The Heritage Foundation has recently recommended similar measures. Securing U.S. oil supply to the best extent possible in cooperation with traditional U.S. allies while bringing on board the emerging major oil consumers-such as India and China-should be the key diplomatic strategy for the intermediate term. The bill also encourages International Energy Agency standards as found in the International Energy Program (created in the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo) with China, India, and the countries in the Western Hemisphere. This approach will go a long way toward anticipating crises and securing the international energy network.
Unfortunately, the bill does nothing to coordinate with countries in the Persian Gulf in the event of a supply disruption. Therefore, only part of the international energy network receives attention from this bill.
What Title VII Needs
The Senate has overlooked several areas that are crucial to improving U.S. energy security.
Threats to U.S. energy security and the international energy network have never been higher. Title VII fails to consider even simple solutions to counter real and emerging threats. The energy security of the United States requires a bill based on better vision, discernment of threats, and economics.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Owen Graham is Research Assistant for the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.