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Energy Security

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See the report for a full list of members of the National Security Task Force on Energy

“We are addicted to oil, and the oil is coming from the most dangerous places in the world,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at a panel today, hosted by the Center for American Progress. Emphasizing the importance of energy security in U.S. foreign policy, the event coincided with the release of a new report titled “Energy Security In the 21st Century.”

The report was produced by the National Security Task Force on Energy, a diverse group of politicians, policy experts, and academics. John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress, introduced the report and joined Albright on the panel. Joining them on the panel were former EPA Administrator Carol Browner and former Congressman Tom Downey.

Podesta’s opening remarks highlighted the growing threat that a mismanaged energy security strategy poses. Pointing out that the U.S. addiction to oil has increased even as oil has become more expensive, he said that the U.S. is compromising its foreign policy objectives by funding unstable and hostile regimes. Podesta also called climate change “a profound national security problem” that could cause significant instability in many parts of the world. Proliferation associated with nuclear energy and a vulnerable global energy infrastructure were also cited as threats.

Reinforcing Podesta’s assessment, Albright observed that countries with oil are gaining influence while those without it are losing leverage. This drives countries that need oil and have trouble affording it deeper into poverty. Oil importing countries are vulnerable, she said, to “energy producers who are more cooperators than competitors.” Dependence on oil limits our policy options, according to Albright, and forces us to accommodate problematic governments.

Short-sighted and short-term solutions to the energy security problem will not be enough. “There is no magic wand. We have to develop a comprehensive approach,” Albright urged. The released report details elements of a comprehensive solution, including a substantial commitment to reducing dependency on foreign oil. According to Podesta, “cellulosic ethanol is the most promising path forward for getting us off our addiction to oil.”

Browner, in addition to improving our biofuels capacity, called for pragmatic approaches to nuclear and coal power, emphasizing safety, and working in concert with a national carbon trading system. “The idea that we are going to drill our way out of the problem,” she stressed, “is wrong.”

Downey added that “the tools to solve this problem are at hand. The question is whether we have the political will to solve the problem.” Bipartisan support and strong presidential leadership were regarded by the panelists as crucial to any meaningful progress. “One party is not going to impose their will on the other when it comes to this issue,” Downey said.

The potential positive impacts of an improved energy security policy are significant. Observing that “the people least responsible for the problem are the one most devastated,” Podesta said that “there’s a great benefit globally from moving off an oil-based energy system.” Reduced dependence on oil would reduce the economic and environmental vulnerabilities of the world’s poorest countries. Podesta emphasized the importance of U.S. leadership in making alternative energy sources economically viable: “The whole world economy turns on what the U.S. does.”

While acknowledging the scale of the problem and the long-term policy commitment, the panelists agreed that a comprehensive approach is needed if any progress is to be made. The report represents an important step in tackling the broad scope of U.S. energy security, a blueprint for positive change. The time for rethinking energy security is now, urges Albright, because “current trends are really not helping U.S. foreign policy.”

To read the full report, please go to the following link:

For video footage and other resources from the event, see:

Biographies

Madeleine Albright is a Principal with The Albright Group, LLC in Washington, D.C. Dr. Albright served as the 64th Secretary of State of the United States, and she was the first woman Secretary of State. As Secretary, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade and business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. She served as a member of the President’s Cabinet and National Security Council for eight years. Dr. Albright also served as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997. Dr. Albright’s latest book, entitled The Mighty and The Almighty: Reflections on America, God and World Affairs, was published in May 2006.

Carol Browner served as Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency from 1993 to 2001, a $7 billion, 18,000-employee federal agency responsible for protecting the public’s air, water, and health of their communities. From 1991 to 1993, Ms. Browner served as Secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation, one of the nation’s largest state environmental agencies. Ms. Browner, an attorney, is widely recognized for her innovative partnerships with the business community and non-governmental organizations, forging common sense, cost-effective solutions to public health, and environmental challenges. Accomplishments during her tenure included enacting the strongest-ever national air pollution standards, creating innovative and flexible alternatives to traditional regulatory programs, and leveraging more than $1 billion in public and private funds to clean up brownfields.

John D. Podesta is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress and visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. From October 1998 until January 2001, Podesta served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, where he was responsible for directing congressional relations and staff activities of the White House. He coordinated the work of cabinet agencies with a particular emphasis on the development of federal budget and tax policy, served in the President’s Cabinet, and was a Principal on the National Security Council. Podesta has also held a number of positions on Capitol Hill including: Counselor to former Democratic Leader Senator Tom Daschle; Chief Minority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks, and Security and Terrorism; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Podesta is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Knox College.

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education, poverty)
202.478.6331 or apreiss@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org