Friday, May 19, 2006
Energy, Climate and the G-8
Because the event is run under Council/Chatham House rules, I'm going to just note some of the points raised rather than identify participants. But I did appreciate very much the candor in which the various participants talked, not about the abstract "what should be done" but addressed some of the real political and business issues.
--there can be no real progress on solving both the energy and climate questions if the approach is for Europe, the U.S. and Japan to reduce consumption, increase efficiency and use alternatives but demand for traditional hydrocarbons, especially on the part of India and China, continues to accelerate [by the way, this is a point made by Senator Lugar as well in his article on Energy Realism in the forthcoming Summer issue of TNI];
--the problem is not one of "demonstrating" technologies; it is creating a regime by which technologies can be transferred and intellectual property rights respected; one of the participants relayed an anecdote from a recent meeting of the Asia Pacific Partnership, where a U.S. business representative maintained that there was no incentive to transfer proprietary technologies to China and India because they would be "stolen";
--no one expects the G-8 process to make a significant difference; the thrust of the Gleneagles summit last year toward alternate energy is being replaced by a focus in St. Petersburg on energy security defined as securing access to traditional hydrocarbon supplies--and at any rate each G-8 country is approaching the question differently; Japan, Germany, the U.S. and UK, for example, each have different priorities.
--the U.S. domestic political focus on the "price of gasoline" and giving relief to consumers prevents real progress on moving toward more efficient use of energy and move to alternates; if U.S. consumers were hit with the full shock, it might then galvanize the reaction needed to get the U.S. to be more aligned in its fuel consumption with Europe and Japan.
--Is the goal energy "independence" of each G-8 state or energy "interdependence" among the leading consumers and producers?
A useful discussion, because we all "know" what needs to be done but we have no real roadmap to get us from point a to point b. More of these conversations are needed--and politicians need to lead and not be driven by the polls.
It seems to me that the way forward is some sort of G-7 consortium that guarantees to inventors and developers a fair price and return on their proprietary technology.