Clinton emphasizes 'energy diplomacy' for US


WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will map out a plan Thursday for making energy a centerpiece of US diplomacy and foreign policy, a recognition of the profound geopolitical changes wrought by America's nascent energy revolution.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Mrs. Clinton will argue that "energy diplomacy" can strengthen America's allies, help counter potential rivals, and, by fostering economic growth around the world, ultimately help strengthen the American economy.

"Today, energy cuts across the entirety of US foreign policy. It is a matter of national security and global stability. It is at the heart of the global economy. It's an issue of democracy and human rights," she is expected to say, based on excerpts reviewed by The Journal. "It has been a top concern of mine as Secretary. And it is sure to be the same for the next Secretary of State."

The speech is part of Mrs. Clinton's efforts to secure her legacy after nearly four years as secretary of state; she plans to step down whether or not Barack Obama wins re-election.

However, that legacy is under pressure now because of the ongoing furor over the deaths in Libya in September of four Americans, including the US ambassador, in a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Mrs. Clinton has said that she bears full responsibility for any security lapses that led to the deadly attack.

Her remarks Thursday come a year after she approved the creation of a dedicated energy bureau inside the State Department.

The emphasis on energy diplomacy is a recognition of the profound change brought about by a huge increase in US oil and natural gas production. That has reversed decades of creeping dependence on foreign energy sources and has given the US many more options in conducting foreign policy.

In the 1970s, energy-related traumas included the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries oil embargo, leading to decades of constraints on US foreign policy, especially regarding the Middle East and other big energy producers.

One key point Mrs. Clinton is expected to stress: The role that US energy production, coupled with US diplomatic efforts, has played in ratcheting up sanctions on Iran.

Diplomats from the State Department's energy bureau, including the division's leader, ambassador Carlos Pascual, have worked with their Iraqi counterparts to eliminate obstacles to increased Iraqi oil production. A surge in Iraqi output, alongside production increases from Saudi Arabia, helped make possible this year's sanctions that directly targeted Iran's ability to export oil.

Mrs. Clinton also is expected to make a reference to a flood of domestic natural gas that has upended traditional energy markets and given the US more leverage in dealing with rivals. Russia in recent years has wielded its vast energy reserves against smaller countries in Europe.

The US now is actively working to encourage other countries in Europe and Asia to develop their own shale gas resources.

"We have an interest in resolving disputes among nations over energy, and ensuring that countries don't use their energy resources, or proximity to transit routes, to force others to bend to their will or forgive their bad behavior," she is expected to say, based on the excerpts.

Another key thrust of Mrs. Clinton's energy diplomacy focuses on bringing electricity to more than 1 billion people who currently lack access to reliable power. This spring, the State Department launched an initiative to help Latin American countries connect their electricity systems and help bring power to millions of isolated, rural residents.

Similar to the 1930s-era US push for rural electrification, the idea is to jumpstart economic growth which will ultimately rebound to the benefit of the US through greater trade and greater export opportunities for big US firms eyeing the multi-trillion dollar power market.

Dow Jones Newswires

For related upstream news, visit our sister publication World Oil

From the Archive