Categorized | NATO, NATO Blog Competition

A Call for Transatlantic Energy Diplomacy

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.



  • Martin Tillier

    The move towards making emission-free energy form as large a part of
    domestic and, in some cases, light industrial consumption as is
    possible, is already a matter of government run systems of targets to
    meet by due dates, it’s not working very well in Britain, and carbon
    taxing is a fraud. In Germany, as you doubtless know, they actually have
    an energy policy that is looking more and more realistic as it
    develops. They, the Germans, are phasing out nuclear, and, for the
    moment, relying heavily on imports of gas, and exporting the coal they
    can’t burn, in order to meet targets, while investing heavily in
    emission free generation via solar technology. Right now, there is a
    technology, brand new, whereby what looks like ordinary sheet glass, is
    actually a photovoltaic device, collecting energy and transferring it to
    wherever it might be required. Although this technology is not
    available on the open market yet, it soon will be, and rivals to it,
    which competition would be good for growth in this very sector where we are going to need it most, emission free technologies that are cheap* to produce and maintain, and can be, ‘plugged-in’ to any modern state’s existing energy
    grid. My two cents for the moment.

  • Kalman Koczo

    As a scientist at a chemical company making chemical for oil & gas I am reading, learning these days a lot about the great changes in the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, which is often called a “revolution” of the petroleum industry and it involves not only the “fracking revolution”, but also the huge investments in deep sea (mostly in the Gulf of Mexico) oil platform (SPARs) and the new, and environmentally more friendly methods of producing crude from the oil sands of Canada (mostly Alberta) with steam assisted methods. I agree with Sheril that an improved dialogue between the US (Canada) and the EU would be very beneficial in finding solutions for the pressing dependency of the EU on Russian crude oil. While a permit was just issued to some US companies to export light crude oil (and probably more permits will come in the future), it is important to emphasize that currently the oil production of the US, with all this revolution happening, is about HALF of its consumption, so it should take probably many years until the US can become a major oil exporter.

  • Sheril Kirshenbaum

    I agree with you Kalman and thanks for commenting.

    U.S. dependency on foreign oil has been decreasing–and that trend is
    projected to continue over the coming decades. And it’s not just due to
    the rise in domestic natural gas production. More efficient energy
    technologies along with rising energy prices have concurrently reduced

    EIA expects a 4 percent net import share of total U.S.
    energy consumption by 2040 – And that 4 percent isn’t likely going to
    need to travel very far. For example, consider America’s ‘foreign’ oil
    suppliers in 2012: Our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, provided
    well over 1/3 of imports alone. For comparison, we received 13 percent
    from Saudi Arabia and just 6 percent from Iraq.

    Overall the United States is looking a lot more energy independent in the years to come. And that’s a good thing. Here’s an interesting look at the EIA’s projection on total energy production and consumption into the future.

  • Sheril Kirshenbaum

    In terms of efficiency improvements and advances in renewable technologies, there’s certainly a lot to be optimistic about.

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.

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