Clinton cites energy in diplomacy from oil to climate

Posted on October 19, 2012


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today promoted energy as a foreign-policy priority, citing Iran and the South China Sea as oil-rich expanses where diplomacy and economics converge.

“Today, energy cuts across the entirety of U.S. foreign policy,” she said in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington. The top U.S. diplomat cited the U.S. role in helping boost Iraq’s oil production and brokering an oil-sharing agreement between South Sudan and Sudan as examples of “energy diplomacy.”

Her comments come in the final week of a tight presidential election campaign where candidates are sparring over domestic oil and gas production, crude prices and coal even as the topic of global climate change has been largely left out of the debate.

Under Clinton’s watch, the State Department created a bureau dedicated to energy. The department also has an in-house economist, part of Clinton’s efforts to expand her toolbox.

Looking ahead, Clinton, who has said she will step down even if President Barack Obama wins re-election, cited energy challenges that will face her successor. She described a turning point in history when for the first time developing countries are set to consume more of the world’s energy than the industrialized nations.

While the world’s energy future is unknown, she said, “The answers are being written right now.”

The U.S. and European allies imposed economic sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in an effort to pressure it over its nuclear program. The potential for energy resources beneath the South China Sea has contributed to tensions over territorial claims by countries including China, Japan and the Philippines.

Clinton referred to the “very real threat of climate change.” In his Aug. 30 speech accepting the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney joked that Obama had pledged to “begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet” and said his own priorities are elsewhere.

Obama seldom invokes climate change anymore even as he continues to call for development of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power to help reduce the need for imported oil.

Emerging Economies

Energy demand in countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is forecast to increase 3.6 percent from 2010 to 2030, according to BP Plc’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. Demand in non-OECD countries will rise 70 percent over the same period. Emerging economies will account for 96 percent of the growth in demand.

A boom in oil production from the shale formations of North Dakota and Texas has put the U.S. on a course to cut its reliance on imported crude to about 42 percent this year, the lowest level in two decades. That’s down from for 44.8 percent of petroleum consumption last year and 60.3 percent in 2005, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Fuel Fix