WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) in an op-ed with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. HR McMaster, former Trump national security adviser, outlined an America First approach to trade and energy production aligning climate policy and national security policy. Looking through the lens of trade with the European Union, the op-ed highlights the opportunities to be a global leader in reducing emissions by producing and exporting US energy, which improves the economy, national security and geopolitical interests of the United States.
“Instead of complaining about poor choices by some European allies, the United States should lead by example in responding to Russian bullying. We have an opportunity to counter Putin’s playbook with a bold initiative in line with European priorities: a transatlantic initiative on climate and trade that would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy security and reduce the power of Russia to coerce Europe” wrote Senator Cramer and Mr. McMaster.
“Not all fossil fuel production is alike: the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of Russian natural gas piped to Europe, for example, are more than 40% higher per unit of energy than US shipments of liquefied natural gas. According to a report by the Climate Leadership Council, Russian energy production is on average twice as carbon intensive as American production. In contrast to Russia’s poor methane record, US producers in North Dakota have achieved natural gas capture rates of over 90%,” continued the editorial.
Using climate and trade policy to counter Putin’s playbook
“The energy crisis in Europe has reignited US concerns that Russia could use its energy dominance on the continent to prevent a forceful response from NATO allies if Russia expands its war in Ukraine. This is why American presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump, have sought to prevent European dependence on Russia by opposing the construction of Russian energy pipelines to Europe, such as the Yamal-Europe and NordStream 2. But Europe’s thirst for Russian energy, especially natural gas, trumped geopolitical concerns – and sadly, the Biden administration acquiesced. Russian President Vladimir Putin is using European energy dependence as an asset in his campaign to subjugate Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, annex parts of their territories, undermine transatlantic relations and restore Russia to greatness.
“Instead of complaining about poor choices by some European allies, the United States should lead by example in responding to Russian bullying. We have an opportunity to counter Putin’s playbook with a bold initiative in line with European priorities: a transatlantic initiative on climate and trade that would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy security and reduce the power of Russia to coerce Europe. One aspect of this initiative could be a joint trade mechanism between the United States and the European Union that sets a common carbon tax on imported goods. This would not only encourage domestic production of goods and energy, but also demonstrate a model of clean and efficient production that other nations could emulate.
“Free-traders on both sides of the Atlantic, who favor cheap imports, may oppose this proposal. However, the current global trade regime has tolerated unfair practices that have resulted in a vast transfer of wealth from the West to undemocratic, marketless countries bent on undermining the security of the United States and Europe. It is time to right the wrongs of the past and stop state-controlled mercantilist economies from continuing to ignore environmental, labor and human rights standards to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Currently, the United States imports more Russian oil than it produces in Alaska, and European dependence on Russian energy will only grow. A new strategy could level the playing field by prioritizing cleaner, more ethically produced oil and gas. Such an approach could be an important part of international efforts to reduce emissions; it is also consistent with the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States and Europe.
“A US initiative to merge climate and trade policy should find support from the EU, which has already introduced a proposal to impose carbon taxes on imports of energy-intensive manufactured goods. Current EU plans, however, have a NordStream 2-shaped loophole because Europe wants to buy cheap but dirty Russian natural gas while discouraging the development of its own energy resources and those of the United States. American diplomats have an opportunity to work with European allies to promote cleaner fossil fuels as part of trade and climate policy aimed at reducing emissions while ensuring energy security and preventing Russia from using the energy dependence for the purpose of coercion.
“Russian fossil fuel interests fear a transatlantic fusion of climate and trade policy. A US-EU deal could lead to a deal between the G-7 and the other economies that joined the summit this year – Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea – which, in turn, would represent at least half of the Russian export market. Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil producer Rosneft, reportedly warned the Kremlin that border carbon charges could be far more damaging to the Russian economy than sanctions. Sechin’s fears are well-founded: Russia is heavily dependent on the export of fossil fuels and energy-intensive goods like steel and fertilizers. Profits from oil and natural gas exports account for about 40% of the government’s budget.
“A US-EU deal would allow US energy producers to leverage their leadership in producing cleaner fossil fuels. Not all fossil fuel production is alike: the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of Russian natural gas shipped to Europe, for example, are more than 40% higher per unit of energy than shipments American liquefied natural gas. According to a report by the Climate Leadership Council, Russian energy production is on average twice as carbon intensive as American production. In contrast to Russia’s poor methane record, US producers in North Dakota have achieved natural gas capture rates of over 90%. European recognition that US natural gas is cleaner in terms of emissions would give US exporters a competitive advantage over more carbon-intensive suppliers like Russia, while encouraging cleaner production globally.
“Integrating global emission reduction targets into the NATO 2030 initiative would strengthen transatlantic relations and solidarity. Russia would no longer be able to capitalize on its low environmental and labor standards. NordStream 2 could become a locked-in asset, depreciated, devalued or converted into a liability. An integrated approach to climate, trade and energy security would incentivize European companies to forgo investments in Russian energy that undermine transatlantic security interests.
“A bold U.S.-EU climate and trade initiative would not only benefit U.S. energy producers, but also recognize U.S. leadership in reducing emissions in a way that does not compromise security. energy and economic growth. It is a solution that allows free and open societies to counter Russian coercion. Combined with Western innovation in renewable energy, advanced nuclear power and hydrogen, this initiative could also be an inspiring model for dramatic emissions reductions and new ways to counter malicious actors everywhere.