Several years after the military began aggressively pursuing a more sustainable energy profile, we might now be seeing the traditionally oil-focused diplomatic arm of the U.S. government catching on, integrating the rise of renewable energy into the conduct of international relations for national security, economic development and climate-change reasons.
This apparent shift was on display at a recent meeting of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC), which featured a talk by U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual, who was tasked by the State Department last year to form a Bureau of Energy Resources. For the RE&EEAC, the discussion of international import and export was of top priority: the committee is charged with advising the Commerce Secretary on programs and policy that will increase U.S. competitiveness internationally.
Pascual, who was also appointed special envoy and coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the State Department last year, emphasized the importance of maintaining close ties with the energy industry, including developing policies that will attract private investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
He noted that according to Energy Information Administration, just one-third of the $9 trillion projected to be invested in major energy projects through 2035 will be in traditional fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil plants; that means some $6 trillion will be dedicated to renewable energy generation. Being a leader in this trend, Pascual said, will be good for developing nations—and good for the United States. “Pascual reiterated that investment in RE&EE isn’t a charity or development issue; it’s a mainstream business sector that is fundamental to U.S. competitiveness in the future,” the GEA report said.
Pascual pointed to various examples around the globe of successful renewable energy projects that have been guided by government policies. He emphasized geothermal development in Kenya as a case of public funds being used successfully to generate clean and stable base load power and also to attract private sector investment.
He noted that energy development was not sufficient, but that government would have to focus on infrastructure and global investment as well.
Climate change has mostly receded from President Obama’s stump-speech reasons for going green, but Pascual did not ignore the fact that the consensus view among scientists is that global climate change is a real phenomenon that will steadily raise average global temperatures if immediate action is not taken to halt the process. Pascual said at the meeting that keeping global temperatures within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial global temperatures is a top priority.