Senior Vice President, Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
President, Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
May 18, 2022
The illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine—and its impact on the cost and supply of energy—highlight the importance of reliable and affordable energy even as the world pursues the transition to cleaner energy. This shifts the policy debate related to climate change, energy, national security, and even economics, and provides an opportunity to advance progress on all these fronts.
Pursuing climate progress and energy security are not mutually exclusive. We can both increase domestic production of oil and natural gas and accelerate the energy transition. The benefits of boosting domestic energy production couldn’t be clearer, particularly in this moment of conflict: curbing the flow of cash that’s funding the Russian war machine is a global priority, not to mention the potential relief on prices by increasing supply. And reducing global dependence on Russian oil and natural gas – among the dirtiest in the world – also delivers environmental benefits. Beyond that, there is a strong consensus on the value of accelerating clean energy deployment and its associated environmental and energy security benefits.
We are therefore heartened by the efforts of Senators Manchin and Murkowski to seek a bipartisan package that could support these goals. We firmly believe that energy and climate policy must be established by Congress to be durable, and that the best way to promote the planning and innovation that will underlie an efficient energy transition is through legislation with bipartisan support. Last year’s success on a long-awaited infrastructure package proved that meaningful legislative action – while requiring great work and commitment – is possible.
With this in mind, we recommend the following seven core elements as the foundation of a climate and energy security “grand bargain":
- Congress and the Administration should pursue a government-wide approach to energy security similar to the Administration’s approach to climate change. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has stated, “We are on a war footing. We are in an emergency.” She is correct, and the Administration should reflect this urgency by bringing all available expertise and tools to bear to enhance the energy security of the U.S. and its international partners and allies.
- A long-term strategy is required. Some have argued against certain policy actions such as increased oil and natural gas production because their effect would not be immediate. This implies that energy security is a short-term concern. Rather, it is clear that energy security must remain a priority for decades. America’s policy approach should reflect that reality, and beneficial actions should be pursued regardless of their focus on longer-term gains.
- Accelerating the clean energy transition can greatly enhance energy security. Thus, technology neutral tax incentives in sectors such as transportation, manufacturing, and electric power should be viewed as a national security imperative that accelerate the commercialization and deployment of low carbon technologies. Additionally, concessionary financing mechanisms are needed to accelerate deployment of emerging technologies.
- Rapidly accelerating dependence on foreign supplies of critical minerals and materials must be addressed. Simply put, we face a shortage of minerals, materials, and processing capacity to support the clean energy transition. The U.S. and its allies should not substitute dependence on Russian oil and natural gas for dependence on clean energy resources and products sourced with materials from other nations. This trades one dependency for another and will not enhance energy security. A comprehensive approach is needed to increase production and processing here at home and from friendly allies.
- Permitting must facilitate investment, not create obstacles. America’s system for permitting the development of projects—in particular those that require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review—is famously broken. Projects of all kinds—renewables, electricity transmission, critical mineral mining, oil and natural gas, and pipelines—face extensive delays and can even be halted due to unnecessarily lengthy NEPA reviews and associated litigation. More efficient permitting processes have always made sense, but project delays related to both energy security and the energy transition add a heightened level of urgency.
- Leverage diplomacy and international financing to enhance the energy security of partners and allies. International engagement efforts should emphasize energy security as a core diplomatic objective. Bilateral and multi-lateral financing efforts should be leveraged to enhance the energy security of partners and allies. Unnecessary financing restrictions on projects that both reduce emissions and enhance energy security should be removed.
- Finally, we must promote the domestic energy production and infrastructure development necessary to enhance energy security. This means not only reversing obstacles to domestic oil and natural gas leasing and permitting, but also pursuing policies that facilitate investment in electric vehicle charging, pipelines and export infrastructure. Importantly, such policies are not inconsistent with climate goals. For example, it is well understood that European efforts to replace imports of Russian natural gas with cleaner U.S. gas will reduce emissions. And with proper planning over the long-term, natural gas infrastructure can be converted to support hydrogen, carbon capture and sequestration, and related technologies that will support decarbonization objectives.
The details of each element will of course require scrutiny, and we are anxious to engage in the policy discussion. But this moment in history demands action from the public and private sectors to advance both energy security and climate progress.
About the authors
Martin (Marty) Durbin is president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute (GEI). Durbin leads GEI’s efforts to build support for meaningful energy action through policy development, education, and advocacy, making it a go-to voice for commonsense energy solutions.