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Wise words from Secretary Clinton on energy, poverty and trade

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently delivered a speech on the entwined topics of energy and diplomacy that deserves a lot more attention than it received. Secretary Clinton’s remarks amounted to a one-day news story in the middle of a hotly contested election. That’s a shame, because there’s a lot in the speech to recommend.

Most accounts of her address focused largely on its foreign policy angles. For instance, The Wall Street Journal’s headline read, “Clinton to Say Energy Plays Key Role in Diplomacy.”

Indeed it does, and the secretary had some perceptive things to say on diplomacy given the interconnectedness and global nature of energy markets.

But it’s worth highlighting two other aspects of Secretary Clinton’s remarks as well.

First, the secretary eloquently pointed out the obligation for governments and industry to combat energy poverty. As Secretary Clinton noted, more than a billion people around the world have no access to reliable supplies of energy. Burning dung or charcoal for subsistence cooking and heating imperils both human health and the environment.

Providing access to reliable, affordable energy supplies and modern technologies is essential to lifting billions of people out of grinding poverty. Secretary Clinton noted that this is not just an economic imperative but a moral one. That insight goes hand in hand with an understanding of the centrality of energy to modern life, and helps inform the analysis that goes into ExxonMobil’s annual Outlook for Energy.

The second point I want to underscore from Secretary Clinton’s remarks was her full-throated endorsement of global trade and an acknowledgement of its benefits. To cite a passage from her speech:

Interconnection will help us get the most out of our region’s resources.  It seems simple, but if one country has excess power, it can sell it to a neighbor. The climate variability across our region means that if one country has a strong rainy season, it can export hydropower to a neighbor in the middle of a drought. Plus, by expanding the size of power markets, we can create economies of scale, attract more private investment, lower capital costs, and ultimately lower the costs for the consumer. 

Kudos to Secretary Clinton for acknowledging that this holds as true for energy as it does for autos or agriculture or any other products we trade on a global basis.

Read the whole speech here.

  • Worth a deeper look...