It’s 2015, and the New Year brings with it several critical energy issues that loom large for the United States. Many of these issues are not new, but recent developments- domestically and internationally- are poised to affect these problems in new ways. What are these issues, and how will they affect U.S. energy security moving forward?
KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
The Keystone XL Pipeline has been the hot topic in American politics following a significant GOP victory in the November 2014 midterm elections. This new leadership has vowed to make passing Keystone legislation a top priority, and have so far made good on their word. The House already passed a bill to approve construction of the pipeline with a vote of 266-153 and is now waiting on the Senate. The Obama administration has promised a veto should the Keystone legislation reach his desk.
But Keystone has come to mean more than the roughly 1200 miles of steel pipe used to transport oil from Alberta to Texas. It means more than the potentially 40,000 jobs it will create or the negative impact it will have on the climate- indeed, Keystone’s actual effects on both of these issues may prove to be underwhelming at best.
It has become a symbol-a symbol representing the potential end of partisan gridlock, and a chance for the United States to finally move on and focus on real energy issues. For Congress to begin focusing on other energy issues, an agreement will need to be made here first.
Cybersecurity has been on the forefront of everyone’s mind following the Sony and CENTCOM incidents, and rightfully so. Cyber attacks can severely damage the U.S. energy infrastructure, wreaking havoc on our economy. David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec, noted the susceptibility of the nation’s energy industry to cyber attacks, saying it’s “pretty far behind most other industries” in terms of preparedness. In fact, the energy grid was hacked 79 times in 2014 alone.
One doesn’t need to think too hard to imagine the potentially devastating effects this threat poses to U.S. energy security. The energy sector is the major source of essential services provided to billions of Americans daily- namely water and electricity- services upon which we depend.
Fortunately, cybersecurity is one of the few bipartisan issues on the Hill, and the Obama administration has made it a focus of 2015 ahead of his penultimate State of the Union address. Expect this issue to shape a great deal of policy moving forward.
INVESTMENTS IN NEW ENERGY TECHNOLOGY
While fossil fuels provide the backbone of much of the world’s current energy reserve, reliance on this form of energy is simply not sustainable in the long term. These fuels handcuff the U.S. economy and exacerbate climate change, in turn threatening our global security.
Research and investments into new energy technologies will provide new and lucrative investment opportunities for the U.S. while supplying an abundant source of clean energy. A prime example is fusion energy-the stuff of stars. Fusion energy would produce millions of watts of electrical power at relatively little cost, more than enough to meet the energy needs of the U.S. and cement our domestic energy security situation for years to come. Progress has been made on this issue, but there is still much to do.