A Call for Transatlantic Energy Diplomacy
GMF is pleased to announce that Sheril Kirshenbaum received an honorable mention in the GMF Blog Competition on Transatlantic Cooperation. Traveling through Europe in 2012 as a Marshall Memorial Fellow provided new perspective on the complex dynamics that shape geopolitics, particularly with regard to the global energy landscape. When I had the opportunity to speak with policy leaders in countries across the European Union, I realized that while it is important to learn the fundamentals of governance, what matters most toward real progress happens because of personal relationships that foster mutual trust and understanding. The experience also opened my eyes to Europe’s energy vulnerabilities, particularly in relation to Russia and the instability of the Middle East and Africa. Two years later, I have been watching Russia’s intervention in Ukraine unfold into the most serious East-West crisis in a generation. The events further highlight Europe’s energy insecurity, but also demonstrate an area in which a strong transatlantic relationship and open dialogue can make a real difference. Together, the United States and European Union have a tremendous opportunity to advance mutual foreign policy goals. The U.S. has become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, surpassing Saudi Arabia and Russia last month. This domestic boom can provide a secure and reliable energy source to Europe in coming years, as we on both sides of the Atlantic ultimately work toward developing sustainable alternatives. Right now, the U.S. cannot export its abundant supply of natural gas to Europe because current law states that the U.S. Department of Energy must approve exports to countries without a free trade agreement with the United States, including NATO allies and members of the European Union. However, negotiations are underway for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which may change these rules. If we reach a trade agreement to export energy to Europe, we would achieve a short-term solution that will improve global stability once infrastructure is in place. Longer-term, the EU must strive to achieve a level of energy independence similar to that of the United States. Given that Europe does not have a sufficient supply of its own, they need to prioritize developing alternatives to fossil fuels. Eventually, I hope that we will work together to improve efficiency and reduce carbon-based fuel dependence around the world. Meeting this ambitious goal will promote the future security of both the U.S. and the EU. A transatlantic scientific partnership would additionally spur advances in energy efficient technologies, which would, in turn, benefit the environment as well. Success is possible if we continue working as partners. Only through strong transatlantic relations will we truly understand one another. And only then will there be hope of finding diplomatic solutions to our most pressing international challenges. Sheril Kirshenbaum, the director of the UT Energy Poll at the University of Texas at Austin, is a 2012 Marshall Memorial Fellow.