Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about the importance of energy and its status as a 21st-century foreign policy priority in Gaston Hall Thursday afternoon.
Dean of the School of Foreign Service Carol Lancaster introduced Clinton, calling her a “Hoya by marriage” and lauding her years of work in government.
“Secretary Clinton has come to embody the Georgetown spirit of public service,” Lancaster said.
Clinton began her talk by outlining the impact of energy concerns on international affairs, saying that the issue is at the core of geopolitics, economic growth and global development.
“Fundamentally, energy is a source of wealth and power, which means it can be both a source of conflict and cooperation,” she said. “Energy cuts across the entirety of U.S. foreign policy.”
She also detailed the Obama administration’s recent initiatives to develop a more progressive and independent energy policy.
“Many Americans don’t yet realize the gains that the United States has made,” she said, citing increased use of wind, solar and natural gas and the implementation of new automobile fuel efficiency standards.
“We are less reliant on imported energy, which strengthens our global economic and political standing,” she said. “The important thing to keep in mind is our country is not and cannot be an island when it comes to energy markets.”
Under Clinton’s leadership, the Department of State created a new Bureau of Energy Resources that orchestrates the department’s diplomatic efforts on energy.
“We did not have a team of experts dedicated full time to thinking creatively about how we can solve challenges and seize opportunities, and now we do,” Clinton said. “That … is a signal of a broader commitment on the part of the United States to lead in shaping the global energy future.”
Here, Clinton turned and pointed to the front row, where six Georgetown alumni who work in the bureau were sitting.
“That’s a shameless pitch for the Foreign Service and the State Department,” she said.
Clinton went on to explain the three pillars of the Department of State’s policies on energy: energy diplomacy, energy transformation and energy poverty. She cited the department’s efforts in Iran, Sudan and South Sudan, Iraq and the Arctic and said that the United States must play a role in preventing conflict over energy resources.
Clinton also spoke of the necessity of transitioning to cleaner energy sources, arguing that the United States has the knowledge and resources to promote green energy in other countries. She talked about a new initiative, “Connecting the Americas 2022,” that aims to provide universal access to electricity in the Americas within 10 years.
“Interconnection will help us get the most out of our region’s resources,” she said. “It really is a win-win-win in our opinion.”
In terms of energy poverty, Clinton detailed her administration’s efforts to promote transparency and equal access to energy in developing countries.
“Poor governance … is a key factor in energy poverty and political instability,” she said. “We need to ensure that energy resources don’t cause more suffering than good.”
Overall, Clinton promoted an active role for the United States in global energy issues.
“We have no choice. … We have to be involved,” she said. “The challenges I’ve outlined will only become more urgent in the years ahead … and all of us have a stake in the outcome.”
Matthew McManus (GRD ’90), deputy director of public diplomacy and policy analysis in the Bureau of Energy Resources, shared how Georgetown should get involved in the conversation about sustainability.
“It is important for us to engage the next generation and to really have a debate about the best path forward for energy security, our planet and the environment,” he said.