Moving the U.S. toward an international energy strategy

By Barry Worthington, United States Energy Association

Barriers to expanding energy trade and investment need to be quickly removed by the Congress and the President, according to the United States Energy Association’s (USEA) trade and development committee report. Congress should restore the President’s Trade Promotion Authority, authorize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow the North American Electric Reliability Organization to penalize violations of reliability standards, and focus on multilateral economic sanctions rather than unilateral economic sanctions. And USEA feels they should act on these matters now.

Simultaneously, the Bush Administration should expedite permits for cross border electric transmission lines, focus increased attention on energy poverty in the poorest of the poor countries (i.e., Afghanistan) and work to eliminate energy tariffs when negotiating trade agreements, the report states.

Foreign trade and investment in the energy sector can mean jobs for Americans, reduced reliance on unstable sources of imported oil, and improved economic development for trading partners. Energy remains the lifeblood of economic development in North America and is equally critical in developing countries. Reducing energy poverty by promoting trade and development is in our own enlightened self-interest.

As nations around the world embrace free trade and competition in energy markets, the U.S. needs to maintain its leadership role. Opening up markets to energy goods and services can be facilitated by the World Trade Organization (WTO) including energy services in the next round of trade negotiations. Similarly, the U.S., Canada and Mexico can increase energy trade with substantial benefits flowing to the citizens of all three countries. The Bush administration can further this by focusing the Clean Energy Technology Export Initiative on a cooperative demonstration project with Mexico.

USEA also feels that the energy industry must re-think its approach in three critical areas as a measured response to September 11. The first is its approach to economic sanctions. We should review unilateral economic sanctions, which contribute to anti-Americanism abroad and unfairly disadvantage U.S. companies, particularly energy companies.

Secondly, we must reprioritize our foreign assistance efforts and increase our funding of energy projects. Third, we must coordinate our foreign assistance and our foreign trade objectives. Our federal government must develop a comprehensive strategy to end energy poverty. A coordinated approach can enhance U.S. national security, promote economic growth and job development, improve global living standards, reduce terrorist threats, and encourage trade and investment while developing additional global energy resources.

The USEA report “Towards A International Trade and Development Strategy” lays out 25 recommendations for the Congress, the administration and the private sector. More information on the report can be found at www.usea.org or by calling 202-312-1230.

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