- - Monday, September 9, 2019

America’s energy dominance is now unquestionable. No other nation produces, consumes and exports as much energy of as many different types, delivered as efficiently and cleanly to as many people, across as large an area, as we do. This incredible reality stands defiantly against the pessimistic predictions of yesteryear — that desperation and constraint, not abundance and flexibility, would characterize our future.

This position of strength is good for jobs, trade, growth and our broader economy. In every sense imaginable, American energy is a boon for the American people.

But we cannot rest on our laurels. Other nations compete with us on a daily basis — as they should — and we need to equip ourselves for that competition.

The fundamental fact is that the developing world will account for the lion’s share of future energy demand. This projection is shared by virtually every expert witness who has testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee over the past decade.

Without question, our energy future is global. We must be able to export our raw commodities to Asia, our technologies to Africa and our expertise to South America. From the Cape of Good Hope to Tierra del Fuego, people and markets around the world must be able to buy energy of all kinds from industrious American workers.

Unfortunately, despite progress in this administration, the federal government has been too slow to adjust to this new world. Our striking lack of robust tools for economic statecraft impairs our ability to reach commercial deals and build critical infrastructure on a strategic basis.

Nuclear energy, for example, is one of the few technologies that can provide zero-emission on-demand heat and electricity. It has drawn strong support from the likes of Bill Gates and the International Energy Agency and is widely regarded as key to addressing climate change.

Yet, while experts reiterate the virtues of nuclear to reduce greenhouse gases, the industry in America is poised to rapidly decline over the next decade. Eight reactors have closed since 2013 and only two new reactors are under construction. Something needs to change to reverse this trend.

Thankfully, there is a new generation of advanced reactors under development in the U.S. — reactors that are smaller, safer, operate more flexibly, have higher efficiency, produce less or no waste, and have additional operational benefits over the existing fleet.

Congress is taking steps to accelerate the development of advanced reactors, but demonstrating the technology at home as an energy and climate solution is not sufficient to enable competitive global nuclear exports — and not for a lack of interest.

Many developing nations, such as Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, are opting for nuclear power to plug the gap between rising energy demands and supply. For now, their business is not with the United States but rather with state-owned companies in Russia and China that offer financing and fuel services.

Russia also offers generous scholarships for students in developing countries to learn nuclear engineering in Russia. For countries that are ready to buy reactors today, like Egypt and Turkey, they offer “Build-Own-Operate” contracts where they run the facility and even remove nuclear waste offsite. China offers its own benefits packages to countries looking to go nuclear, such as 90 percent loan financing and plant operation.

In July, I unveiled a new Strategic Energy Initiative (SEI) to confront this competitive reality. Our tools, such as the Development Finance Corporation and the Export-Import Bank, must be strengthened and empowered, and our broader toolkit must focus on strategic energy projects, particularly in the natural gas and nuclear fields.

Our energy future is bright, but only if we recognize the world we are in. Prosperity, after all, is not a birthright. We as Americans know that it is earned.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican, is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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