Global energy politics are front and center at the World Cup in Russia

As originally published in The Hill on June 24, 2018.

If you’ve watched one of this summer’s World Cup soccer matches for 10 minutes, or even seen the highlights on the news, you’ve been subtlety exposed to global energy politics and Russian propaganda.

We are used to seeing ads from Adidas, McDonald’s, and Powerade surrounding the field — but Gazprom is different. For decades, the Russian natural gas monopoly has bullied Eastern European countries. for example, in 2006, it cut off Ukraine’s gas supply in the middle of winter. To certain audiences, its World Cup ad campaign likely seems more like provocation than marketing.

Even if you’re not a soccer fan, or are not watching because our national soccer team failed to qualify, it’s time to acknowledge that the competition between countries in worldwide energy markets isn’t always friendly and understand what “energy dominance” could mean for the U.S. and our friends and allies.

If the Trump administration takes an “all of the above” approach seriously, the potential outcome could be tremendous. But we need to keep an open mind. Fans of democracy and advocates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving environmental quality need to see the overall strategy and benefit of a stronger American presence in the global energy game — including oil and natural gas.

Renewables are essential, but there’s also a cleaner way to do every type of energy production. U.S. environmental policies routinely assure that fossil fuels extracted from American soil leave a smaller footprint than similar projects in other countries, especially Russia.

Earlier this year, The Boston Globe’s editorial board came down hard on New England politicians who have been unwilling to develop natural gas infrastructure in order to score short-term political points on climate change. The unintended consequence of that stance is more imported natural gas from Russia and an outsourcing of environmental degradation to the Siberian arctic, a critically threatened ecosystem.

The reality is that the U.S. is in an unprecedented position to help meet global demand. American influence on global oil markets is already rising and expected to grow. Until 2015, the U.S. didn’t export any crude oil by law; but in five years, it is expected to be among the world’s biggest exporters. By 2023, U.S. oil exports could more than double to 4.9 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency.

It’s clear that we can be a force in this game — or choose not to.

It starts with being realistic about the future of oil and gas and the role the U.S. can play in cleaner energy production. Even with the most ambitious climate change policies in place, according to BP’s latest energy outlook, global oil and natural gas demand will grow through 2040 as Asian and African countries develop and industrialize.

Here at home, the transition to a low carbon economy is well underway. According to the 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since 1991, much of it during a decade of economic growth led by clean energy job creation.

Indeed, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University indicate that thanks to free market forces we have already achieved the Clean Power Plan’s proposed 2025 target — without ever implementing the regulation.

However, emissions will need to come down further, and ultimately, we may need to go “net negative” with carbon emissions. Enter carbon capture storage technologies that are proven and now helped by a new tax credit. Thanks to a decade of investment collaboration by the Department of Energy and the private sector, the U.S. has a comparative advantage in this space.

Recently,  Govs. Matt Mead (R-Wyo) and Steve Bullock (D-Mont.) announced their intent to boost carbon capture projects and CO2 pipeline infrastructure across the country. By capturing carbon emissions so they don’t go into the air, but instead go underground or into useful commercial products there is the chance to rebalance. As these technologies mature they can be exported around the world and help other countries achieve their emissions reductions goals.

We will have to dodge Russian fouls in the meantime. Between 2015 and 2017, more than 9,000 Russian posts and tweets dealt with U.S. energy policy and aimed to erode support for projects and technologies that would help the U.S. compete internationally.

We can overcome that kind of subterfuge and cast aside political differences by focusing on the geopolitical and environmental facts rather than talking points, and by the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the U.S. can be energy dominant in “all of the above” categories.

Charles Hernick is the director of Policy and Advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) Forum, a nonprofit engaging Republican policymakers and the public about commonsense, conservative solutions to address our nation’s need for abundant, reliable energy while preserving our environment.

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