Mind the Power Gap: The American Energy Arsenal and Chinese Insecurity

The shale revolution has upended nearly a half-century of American energy insecurity. The United States is now the most energy-secure it has been since the 1970s and has returned to its position as the world’s leading energy producer. Over a few short years in the 2010s, the United States shifted from being one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas importers to instead being the world’s largest exporter. Meanwhile, China faces long-standing and increasing challenges with energy insecurity. Not yet an advanced economy, China’s growth remains tightly coupled to energy consumption. Most of the oil and natural gas its energy sector consumes must be imported from the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and even the United States. Moreover, China struggles to shift away from its long-standing primary energy source–coal.

In Mind the Power Gap, authors Christopher Bassler and Ben Noon compare and contrast the United States' growing and diversifying energy portfolio with China's limited energy portfolio. While the U.S. portfolio is not without pain points--which the authors discuss, including potential solutions--overall, they find that the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to build a secure, robust energy sector have been met with mixed success at best, as its sources primarily rely upon foreign imports and fossil fuels that both harm the environment and public health in the region. Consequently, they recommend several policies, including using the United States' energy exports to reinforce and expand its alliances and using scientific evidence to highlight China's role as the world's leader in greenhouse gas emissions in opposition to its efforts to style itself as a "green power." The report also features policy goals with specific partners as well as opportunities for domestic innovation and job growth.

On September 15, CSBA hosted a virtual event on Mind the Power Gap, featuring the authors and Gabriel Collins, the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy & Environmental Regulatory Affairs at Rice University’s Baker Institute. The event began at 1 PM with an introduction from Ambassador Eric Edelman, CSBA Counselor and host of the event. The authors offered their remarks on the report, followed by commentary from Gabriel Collins and a moderated Q&A session.

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