On July 19th, the American Security Project hosted an event titled “The War in Ukraine and Energy Security and Energy Market Disruption.” ASP CEO Patrick Costello moderated a discussion with Kevin Book, head researcher at ClearView Energy Partners, LLC, and Commander Mark P. Nevitt, JAGC (ret.), Associate Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law and member of ASP’s Consensus for American Security.
The war in Ukraine has roiled energy markets and disrupted global energy flows. The panelists first considered whether the war has presented an opportunity to move away from fossil fuels or whether it has “breathed new life” into them. Commander Nevitt argued that it is all a question of timing. While the war has pressured many nations, especially in Europe, to unshackle their respective economies from Russian sources of energy, it “takes a long time to turn a big ship,” and fully pivoting away from Russian energy cannot happen immediately. Nevitt said there are questions about how this crisis impacts the international climate agenda and the road to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt this fall. We may also be on the cusp of a fundamental shift in energy alliances, and the world may split into rival oil blocks. Book said that the current period is a “signpost of transition,” but 80 percent of the world’s fuel still comes from the ground.
The panelists then turned to European energy security challenges and how the current situation exemplifies a complex web of climate, energy, and foreign policy concerns. Europe’s green energy transition was predicated on the availability of Russian gas, and the Green Agenda dependent upon the availability of affordable energy—two variables complicated by the current crisis. While discussing alliance cohesion in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the risks of fracture as we approach the colder winter months, Commander Nevitt argued that the current energy crisis illustrates the dangers of relying on petrostates and that Putin’s actions have brought the alliance closer together. Book diverged from Commander Nevitt’s optimism, stating that high energy prices and shortages have already had significant impacts on the political situation in Europe, citing recent political turmoil in the United Kingdom, the crushing blow to President Macron in France in the recent parliamentary elections, and the political crisis currently engulfing the Draghi government in Italy.
The conversation then shifted to U.S. energy security concerns. Both Nevitt and Book addressed the executive actions taken by President Biden in recent months, including a series of executive orders and the invocation of the Defense Production Act. The panelists also weighed in on the prospects of Biden declaring a national emergency on climate, the implications of such a declaration for energy markets and investment, and what federal emergency authorities are available.
Panelists discussed President Biden’s recent trip to the Middle East, specifically his meetings with leaders in Saudi Arabia, the prospects for nuclear energy and risks associated with Russia’s dominance of the fuel supply chain (the subject of recent ASP analysis), and potential government interventions into energy markets. The discussion concluded with panelists weighing in on how the current energy crisis will impact the climate agenda and decarbonization efforts.