Former Special Assistant to the President for international energy and environment
U.S. climate and energy policy has shifted course under the Trump Administration. From the decision to leave the Paris Agreement, to promises to prop up the coal industry, to a push for “energy dominance” and now a new “energy realism,” much has changed from the Obama era.
To better understand the strategy behind these shifts, host Jason Bordoff sits down with George David (“Dave”) Banks on a new episode of Columbia Energy Exchange. Dave served as special assistant to the President and as Senior Director at the National Economic Council (NEC) and National Security Council (NSC) until February 2018.
Before working as Special Assistant at the NEC and NSC, Dave served as executive vice president at the American Council for Capital Formation, as a senior adviser to President George W. Bush on international climate change, and as Republican deputy staff director of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was deputy director of the nuclear energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. State Department diplomat, and an analyst at the CIA.
Among the topics that Dave and Jason discuss are: The Trump Administration’s rationale to leave the Paris Agreement; Insights into the conservative approach to climate change; Opportunities for a carbon tax in the United States; The administration’s approach to international energy issues including the crisis in Venezuela, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the Nordstream 2 pipeline.
Jason Bordoff: Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange, a Podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. I’m Jason Bordoff. The Trump administration has shifted core sharply on Energy and Climate Policy from the prior administration and perhaps no issue has been more symbolic of that than the highly publicized decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a move that drew widespread condemnation from many around the world at the time, even as it was celebrated by many here at home.
Few people were more central to the internal decision making within the Trump administration that led to that announcement than Dave Banks. Dave served for the last year a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the staffs of the National Economic Council and the National Security Council. In addition to working on the Paris Agreement, Dave’s job gave him responsibilities for a wide range of International Energy issues and Climate issues from L&G exports and oil markets to sanctions and International Energy and Climate finance and much more. I’m very familiar with the broad sweep of that job, because it’s the same position I held in the Obama administration.
Before working as Special Assistant at the NEC and NSC, Dave served as Executive Vice President at the American Council for Capital Formation, a Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush on International Climate Change and as Republican Deputy Staff Director of the U.S. Senate EPW the Environment and Public Works Committee. He was Deputy Director of the nuclear energy program at CSIS, U.S. State department diplomat and also a CIA analyst. I had the chance to sit down with Dave at CERAWeek in Houston and we talked mostly about the Paris Agreement and about climate change and then a bit at the end of the conversation, about other timely issues from the Iran deal to Venezuela. Here’s that conversation. Dave Banks, welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange. Thanks for joining us.[00:02:01]
Dave Banks: Great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.[00:02:03]
Jason Bordoff: So, there’s a lot of things I want to talk about in the breadth of the issues that you’re responsible for covering in just over a year at the National Security Council for the Trump administration, I have some sense of what that portfolio looks like —[00:02:15]
Dave Banks: And National Economic Council.[00:02:17]
Jason Bordoff: Dual headed between the two, right.[00:02:18]
Dave Banks: Yes.[00:02:18]
Jason Bordoff: And as I said, I’ve some sense of that since I held that position in the last administration, looking at issues of both International Energy and International Climate.[00:02:29]
Dave Banks: You should have warned me how half of the job is going to be.
Jason Bordoff: You didn’t call first. I think for you the year you were there, it’s fair to say International Climate probably got at least the most focus externally, I don’t know if that took up the most time internally as well, but the big issue there of course was the Trump administration’s decision to pull out the Paris Agreement. You’ve spoken publicly that you disagreed with that, you thought — you preferred that the administrations stay in the agreement, just talk to us a little bit about sort of how that played out internally, how the decision was made to make the announcement he did in the Rose Garden and what the rationale was and why it landed where it did given competing views internally?[00:03:10]
Dave Banks: Yeah, great question. So, I think it’s important to step back and kind of look at the context, what was I looking at when I walked into the job; I was at February the 16th, 2017. And we really had a couple of points for guidance, first was the campaign promise that the President made back in May of 2016 in North Dakota, where he said I’m going to cancel the Paris Agreement, and all funding for global warming programs. So, that was probably the main point, but I think it’s – it was also important to know where the President was before he said that in North Dakota and then after the election.
And before the North Dakota speech, I can remember saying at the President’s first public comments sort of suggesting that bad deal, I would renegotiate it, okay. Then after the election, the President was pretty much — we’ll see, I’m open to looking at it, and by the way he heard from a lot of people. I would say I was really, really impressed by the diversity of views that he actually incorporated in his decision, from the election all the way up to the Rose Garden announcement, I mean as you can imagine, he was heavily lobbied by people from all across the spectrum, including a number of our allies and partners overseas. But the President also heard from last president —[00:04:52]
Jason Bordoff: What did you think of that Rose Garden speech? I think a lot of people sort of thought there were several pieces of it that weren’t probably not — may not be factually accurate, that —[00:05:02]
Dave Banks: Right.[00:05:03]
Jason Bordoff: — I mean what was your reaction to what he said in the rationale given for pulling out?[00:05:08]
Dave Banks: So, the Rose Garden speech was — you have to remember before we were in the whole process, this was the before General Kelly came in and really did a great job in imposing some structure and discipline when it came the process, right. And so, it didn’t go through the normal sort of staff sack coordination. So, I didn’t see the speech until maybe few hours before the speech. And, I will never forget being asked to — being asked by the CAMS folks, hey, we need you to go out and defend the speech with the press core and then came back and said, well I need to see the speech first, right, in order to be able to prepare for that.
So, when I first looked at it, yeah I think people who understand the issues, recognize that maybe there is some things that didn’t quite reflect the reality of where some things are in the international climate process. But, the President — and I’ve said this to number of folks that although I was heavily promoting, husting in and as changing the number, because I personally thought the Obama administration’s pledge was just unattainable, and would have required burdensome regulations across their economy.[00:06:47]
Jason Bordoff: And, one of the arguments we heard for pulling out was a view apparently expressed by people got approved another is that that would expose the administration to some vulnerability; there might be legal risk–[00:06:57]
Dave Banks: Yes.[00:06:58]
Jason Bordoff: — was that — I think a lot of people disagree, but that who kind of look carefully.[00:07:02]
Dave Banks: Yes.[00:07:03]
Jason Bordoff: Was that an important argument internally?
Dave Banks: That was — in my opinion that was a very important argument that was put forward by administrator approve it and one house council. And I think that it certainly played an important role in the president’s decision making, but I mean also — look I’ve also fought through this, I’ve spent a lot of time post morning I’m thinking about the Rose Garden speech. I do think that the President probably landed, where he was going to land regardless, and let me explain that.
If he look at the starting points, in the internal negotiations, if you want to call it that, where you have some of the more conservative saying let’s stick with the President’s campaign promise, let’s end the globe funding for global warming programs, including the UN Framework Convention, maybe we should pull out of the UN Framework Convention to exit the Paris Agreement faster than what we could otherwise, right, that’s where they’re coming from. Our camp was essentially arguing, yes we should stop funding for the Green Climate Fund and we should end the previous administration’s pledge under Paris and come up with something else.[00:08:24]
Jason Bordoff: And you would end that pledge, because you thought it went too far?[00:08:26]
Dave Banks: Yeah, it just wasn’t achievable; it wasn’t achievable in way that made economic sense, because it would required regulation across U.S. industry and U.S. manufacturing. And I think everyone sort of recognize that who was in the no. So, the President ends up, by the way I would argue as closer to where we were than where conservatives were coming from, right, we stayed in the Framework Convention, President wants to stay engaged in international environment and climate policy, President wants to protect U.S. interest, obviously we ended the — previous administration’s pledge, which was announced at the G20 more formally. But then we — but we only cutoff funding for the Green Climate Fund, it didn’t extend to the broader array of climate funding.[00:09:19]
Jason Bordoff: What does it look like to stay engaged in International Climate negotiations when you’ve said on the – we’re pulling out as soon as we can, which is I guess the day after the next Presidential election technically.[00:09:29]
Dave Banks: Right.[00:09:30]
Jason Bordoff: What does that mean our ability to engage in these negotiations, are we doing that, how can we do that?[00:09:38]
Dave Banks: Well, great question. Look I think we actually have more leverage as a result, right. So, we are still a party of the Paris Agreement, we can’t formally announce our departure until November of 2019, taking place as you say a day after the 2020 election. And, between now and then it’s in the U.S. interest to make sure that we do what we can to correct the flaws of the Framework Convention.
And this was one of my arguments for Paris is that putting aside the pledge and just looking at the Paris Agreement in and of itself, Paris Agreement in my opinion and I’ve said this in New York Times, this was good republican agreement and it is. And if you look at – if you look at the framework and by the way let’s backup a little bit, folks were accusing me at the cop of supporting the Obama administration’s policies, well actually we were just supporting, all of us were supporting sort of the post Kyoto, post Clinton International Climate Policy, so which spanned across the Bush, the Obama and the beginning of the Trump administrations.
That we want a level playing field as much as possible, we want all major economies to be involved, climate change is a global problem, requires a global solution, countries can’t get a free pass, right. We want — and back to the reporting and verification, those are really important pieces to addressing the climate change. And we have to have a same standards across the board and the Paris Agreement seeks to do that. Now support, I say over, because the guidance, the rule book has to be negotiated and we’ve seen China and a few other countries try the step back and try to promote some differentiation or bifurcation as they say and you UN jargon, okay, that would make a difference between developed and developing countries.
China still claims to be developing country, that’s obviously crazy and ridiculous, but that’s what they argue. And so, it’s in the Trump administration’s interest to continue negotiating those — that rule book and the guidance for the Paris Agreement and ordered again to level the playing field between all major economies.[00:12:07]
Jason Bordoff: And that’s why you thought it was important to stay in agreement, even though you would have changed the targets, even though people say it was nonbinding, I mean the President said on the Rose Gardens, said as nonbinding, he also said it would cost as a bunch of money and it was sort of draconian and how can be both draconian and nonbinding, but anyway.[00:12:23]
Dave Banks: Absolutely, I am a firm believer in staying engage, staying at the table, making sure that you are the one, that you are playing a major role in shaping the rules and look I mean it’s obvious, given the vast abundance and the wealth that the U.S. has in energy resources, we have to understand that the climate agenda, if it goes the wrong way, it’s going to be detrimental to U.S. commercial interest into fossil fuel industry. And if we are not engaged in a constructive, active manner, we’re going to end up with global policies that harm our industry.[00:13:04]
Jason Bordoff: How would you – if you had to redo the NDCs, what would they say? What would be the target?[00:13:12]
Dave Banks: Look I think that they’re probably couple of options for the NDC.
Jason Bordoff: And for people listening, those are the Nationally Determined Contributions, these are targets –[00:13:24]
Dave Banks: Yes.[00:13:25]
Jason Bordoff: — Obama had pledged to reduce emissions 26% to 28% —[00:13:27]
Dave Banks: Right.[00:13:28]
Jason Bordoff: — by 2025.
Dave Banks: Right. Two options from the Trump administration, and this is going to go back to your point on the legal argument by the way, because it’s related. First option is to do business as usual, right, you look at the EI forecast, U.S. admission are projected to fall, I can’t remember what the number is, but between now and 2020, 2025, that’s going to happen. And by the way independent of what happens to the clear power plan.[00:14:02]
Jason Bordoff: Yeah, a lot of people think cheap gas means will hit the clean power plan targets are coming pretty close to it, with or without the clean power plan.[00:14:07]
Dave Banks: There is going to be continue fuel switching, right and efficiency gains.[00:14:10]
Jason Bordoff: And falling renewable cost too, yeah.[00:14:12]
Dave Banks: Yes. And then of course the economies were coming less energy intensive that for number of reasons, because the President is trying to reverse that with the renaissance for U.S. manufacturing, but that’s where things are now. So, you have that basic facts, so theoretically the U.S. could just say, you know what take the EI target, take all the assumptions that the EI presents in its base analysis, and then just go with that as the NDC, okay.
The second option would be and again this is related to the legal argument is that we can’t put forward any number at all, because whatever number we put forward will be used against this. So, any kind of regulatory rollback measure we put forward is going to be looking — is going to be looked at through the lens of how does this affect the number. And so, therefore it could create some kind of legal jeopardy. And that was the argument put forward by administrate approval and others, and I think that, from that perspective, that’s a valid concern, people in United States can sue for anything. I think the big question was will it hold up through appeal et cetera, in the worst case scenario. And, I think that a lot of folks on the outside argue that it could, right that we would win.[00:15:44]
Jason Bordoff: Yeah, I think mostly legal expertise that I read didn’t think that was –[00:15:48]
Dave Banks: Right.[00:15:48]
Jason Bordoff: A valid legal risk, but —[00:15:50]
Dave Banks: So, if that concern still holds, then you might have a situation where the administration the President decides to stay in the agreement, come up with – they come up with an NDC that doesn’t have a number. So, that number looks or that pledge looks like a developing country pledge and not like developed, now you can argue the best against the spirit of Paris Agreement, I would probably agree with that, but it doesn’t prevent a country from doing that.[00:16:22]
Jason Bordoff: And how of the view that we should pull out of the Paris Agreement, do you think was driven by since that there — this is a bad deal, the targets were on, China was taking advantage of us and how much is driven by a sense that like actually climate change is not really a problem we need to be worrying about, it’s not an important policy priority?[00:16:39]
Dave Banks: I think for the President — the President is not an idea log on these issues. I think it’s really important for people to understand where the President is coming from, he is looking at International Climate Policy through the lens of how does this is impact U.S. manufacturing, how does this impact our comparativeness, and not to my knowledge did he ever really say look this is not a real issue, so therefore we shouldn’t be involved.
Right, it was always what does this do the U.S? Does this give a competitive advantage to our competitors, and by the way if you look at the President speeches regardless of where there are including the recent one with CPAC, it was pretty obvious that yes, the President is really concerned about what does this do for China, what does this do for Russia. These are big issues for him and he’s always going to look at these International Energy environment agreements through that lens.[00:17:43]
Jason Bordoff: And it’s not just the International Agreements, right there’s a domestic agenda that is — I think it’s fair to say leans heavily toward a deregulatory approach to a lot of these things, the power plan, methane rules, we’ll see what happens with the fuel economy standards, but a number of the things that people in the prior administration would have said were important climate policy pieces of progress.[00:18:03]
Dave Banks: Right.[00:18:04]
Jason Bordoff: They’ve sort of – this administration said they want to reverse. So, I think that’s why it leads to a sense that like, well, the climate change can’t be that important concern, because they’re kind of undoing a lot of these things and — or do you think that that’s a misimpression for some reason and other ways that you think make more sense than some of the regulatory approaches, the last administration put in place that this administration has been pushing forward and maybe haven’t gotten enough attention?[00:18:32]
Dave Banks: So, there were couple of things here, if you go back to the Paris Agreement, I don’t think the two are necessarily linked, I mean, they obviously were for the Obama team, right. They had a number in mind and they wanted to pursue regulatory approach that could get us close to the number as much as possible, and that’s what you have had with the President Clinton. I don’t necessarily think that you have to stay in the Paris Agreement and believe that climate is a major global problem and you have to do everything you can stop it.
I mean, I’m just — and I’m being rational here, I just — if you just look objectively at all the NDCs, if China really thought that, China wouldn’t be saying well, peak our emissions around 2030, right it would just be a much more pressing issue. So, I’ve would park that there. But on the climate agenda in general, I think there’s going to be an evolution of thought on how to address the policy and the politics around climate. I think that if you look at the Bush administration, the Bush administration – took a long time for the Bush administration to really develop the climate policy that I would considered to be like a major policy framework and that really didn’t happen until — at the very end, and the Obama team largely kept it, right. I think it’s going to take time for this Trump administration, I think it’s going to focus on innovation and technology.[00:20:09]
Jason Bordoff: And we’ve obviously seen over the last several years, the Republicans and Democrats continue to diverge in where they are on climate change, don’t want to go back that far in history to look at bipartisan proposals for cap and trade and for other things. Why do you think that is? Why do think the Republican Party has seems to — tell me if I’m wrong — become more worst efforts to move Climate Policy forward.[00:20:39]
Dave Banks: It’s just simple economics and politics, it’s easy to embrace a really proactive climate agenda when your state has lot of hydro, has lot of nuclear or you’re importing a lot of your electricity from out of state, right, it’s much tougher if you have a state economy in the middle country, in the South and the Middle West where you are heavily depended on coal, and a major flaw of U.S. Climate Policy making has been — it’s been largely driven by a top-down approach. If you look at Kyoto, if you look at the legislation that was introduced in Waxman Markey, 2009, that’s one of the differences of the Pairs Agreement itself is a framework, but the target — the way the Obama administration produce the target was very much a top-down approach, right, you didn’t have stakeholder input, you had no sort of transparent process as the what, U.S. states, what U.S. sectors can actually do on the climate front.
And until the United States addresses that and fixes that, I guess what I would argue is that United States needs to look at the example of EU, and how the EU came up with an EU climate policy, right, because it was all driven by the member states, what can this member state do, what can this member state cannot do, right. And that’s what produced what I consider to be a major political compromise with Kyoto, with the Bubble, where some member states to grow targets, right, they’re able to actually increase their emission, whereas some member states accepted zero target or actual emission reductions. But that’s the kind of politics that’s needed in the United States in order to come up with the compromise.[00:22:41]
Jason Bordoff: So, we see kind of a shift now from the federal level to more state and local level, obviously some states are trying to do much more than others on this issue, so does that sound like you think that’s actually a healthy thing? And then, does that get us to where we need to be if people – if we are trying to achieve anything close to two degree warming something, whatever your target is, does that get us to where we need to be?[00:23:04]
Dave Banks: It can be a healthy thing if it’s done in a rational way, right. But I think it’s hard for individual states, there is only so much the individual states can do, you need a federal policy, you need a national approach to climate change policy making. And, again we just haven’t done that.[00:23:26]
Jason Bordoff: Do you think there’s been more — seems to me, tell me if you agree more efforts from some republican elder statesman, Bush, Baker and _____ [00:23:37] and some members of congress to talk about carbon pricing, maybe think about a carbon tax, does that – does that policy makes sense to you? And do you think it really has any legs may be not tomorrow, but in the near to medium term across the aisle?[00:23:54]
Dave Banks: Pure Fantasy at least in the near to midterm, right. And the reason why it’s pure fantasy is because that requires a hefty political compromise. I mean if you’re the environmental community, you know that the one thing that you have to give up to get a common tax is EPA Regulation that somehow EPA Regulatory Authority has to be addressed, and it may not just pertain to GHG, it may also pertain to other parts of the Clean Air Acts, and it may sort of like swerve and drift in other environmental law, right.
So, I think that’s really important if – and if you know that’s the cause to the — and that’s what you have to give up for the privilege compromise why would you ever do that, right. I don’t think that there has been a final say on the regulatory approach, I myself, I don’t think it works, I don’t think it’s sustainable, and I think that’s probably one of the major flaws of the Pairs Agreement not being a treaty, right, because at some point, you’re going to have to have congress be involved, congress is going to have to say, yes or no to different types of legislation that would result in those deep emission reduction targets that you need.[00:25:21]
Jason Bordoff: And you said — I think you said, should be less top-down, less kind of a regulatory government approach, more innovation and clean energy technologies, so I think it strike some people as that the administration’s proposed cutting R&D for clean energy as much as it has, how should we understand that?[00:25:40]
Dave Banks: Yeah. But, I think that’s a little complicated, look I think, you have to know at least the politics of budget making, right. And so, when Director Melwani was essentially given the guidance of do not increase the budget deficit, at the same time increase spending for defense et cetera, that’s going to have to come out of someone, so it’s not as if the administration targeted clean energy programs and department of energy, I mean there were cuts across the board, state department US Aid, EPA right across the board. And so, I think that when it comes to those kind of policy issues and by the way it’s important to know that that budget, that 2018 budget was dropped in I don’t know February, March of 2017 when no one was around.
So, you have a budget that’s become kind of the base line for policy making without sort of the normal policy process that would go into figuring out do we really want to cut spending for renewable energy, do we want to cut spending for fossil energy.[00:27:04]
Jason Bordoff: Internally; I mean the team wasn’t kind of in place yet –[00:27:06]
Dave Banks: Right, precisely. And so, I think that as – I think as we kind of move forward, as the agencies are fully staffed and you get more or sense as to where the policy should be, then there is going to be adjustments to that kind of think, but look, it also depends on the congress.[00:27:25]
Jason Bordoff: If you had to bet now, what percentage probability would you assign to Trump oil in the end pull out of the Paris Agreement or will actually stay in the Paris Agreement?[00:27:35]
Dave Banks: I believe that he will stay in the Paris Agreement.[00:27:39]
Jason Bordoff: With the different target and –[00:27:41]
Dave Banks: Yeah. Let me sort of explain this, right, because I think that just given the fact that the US has the G7 in 2020, in my opinion the president is going to want major victories, like here, right. Now, maybe they’ve already submitted the letter of withdrawal, which you can always pull that back, okay. And, by the way, even if they don’t pull it back, the day after election of the president – regardless of the president wins or loses reelection, I think he’ll win, but regardless of that, the president can submit a letter the next day and say we are back in and I’m off, and this is our pledge right. So, it’s not difficult to get back into the Paris Agreement.
But I think they are going to love victories, and I think it’s going to be very easy for the president as you know, we haven’t really talked about the one issue that was also out there, can you change the number downward or not, I think I believe which can, I think most people would argue, most scholars and international climate would argue that you can, maybe you shouldn’t, but you can.[00:29:02]
Jason Bordoff: I think the consistent legal opinions are read from the members.[00:29:05]
Dave Banks: Yes, including the people who negotiated the agreement, right. But, I think the president – given the fact that the US is hosting the G7, controls the agenda, controls the messaging, I think it will be fairly easy for the president to agree that we are going to stay in, we are going to change the number and then walk out of that summit argument that he renegotiated the Paris Agreement and did something that no one thought he could do and came up with a much better deal than what the previous administration presented, I think that’s relatively easy.
Now, I will say this, I do think it’s important for – and this goes back to what we are talking about with congress, congress has to be involved in climate fall _____ [00:29:52], you can’t, we are congress, right. and so, actually agree that United States should not stay in the Paris Agreement unless congress has the ability to approve or disapprove of the number.[00:30:08]
Jason Bordoff: Do you see any reason that republican congress would approve?[00:30:10]
Dave Banks: If I were in the republican congress, I would support that, I think it’s really a question for democrats, before republican, I know that the next president can just come in and rejoin the Paris Agreement and just come up with any number and then use that number sort of as a yard stick for regulation, we have to do this regulation and that regulation to help me the Paris Pledge. So, knowing that, I’m going to want to put some type of control on the executive, and I think they should, right, that if you plan to put forward a major emissions reduction target in particular, and you plan to build a regulatory agenda around that, I want to say over that, so I would argue that it’s in GOP’s interest.[00:31:04]
Jason Bordoff: So you worry that if you lower the target – and you – mentioned earlier I think kind of look at what EIA kind of business as usual would look like, bringing the target closer to that, something the republicans could agree to that that is just not moving fast enough to mitigate what the potential consequences of climate change could be. Does that worry you?[00:31:25]
Dave Banks: So, for me; no. I mean, I understand that it’s a really important issue from a climate mitigation perspective, but I look just from – and I’m just being very practical here, again I knowledge the science, I acknowledge the climate is a problem, but I don’t see a politically viable pathway for the emissions reductions targets that the science suggest, I just don’t see it without major technology breakthroughs across the fossil sector, right.
And so, I get into this, well, you can put forward any target you want, but if it’s not based on the facts, if you don’t have a real strategy and pathway for technology innovation, commercialization, et cetera, then it doesn’t really matter what you do.[00:32:26]
Jason Bordoff: So, there were lots of other pieces of your portfolio, we haven’t – we only few minutes left to talk about, but let me just as you –[00:32:30]
Dave Banks: Maybe that’s next time.[00:32:31]
Jason Bordoff: Let me just ask about one or two that are most pressing and time sensitive, lot of – this administration has taken a pretty strong stance against the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, against more Russian Gas into Europe, it’s actively promoted the benefits of US L&G exports. I hear sometimes people especially in Europe, who hear those things being linked, they view sometimes in our position Nord Stream 2 maybe as commercially motivated, because we want the world to buy our gas instead, does that – was that actually – is that actually true, was that part of the rationale for where the administration landed, where it did, does that concern you at all in how the policy has been positioned?[00:33:16]
Dave Banks: Well, first of all, I think it’s silly, second of all, I look at this and see this as a Russian narrative, false narrative that they are pushing in Europe, right, because they want us to look like the bad guys, well, they are the bad guys, right. And I go back to – look, it’s been US policy probably since the Reagan Era to make sure that Europe has diversity of energy supply, we want to do what we can to improve Europe’s energy security because of the importance of our alliance with Europe, with Western Europe in particular, in Central and Eastern Europe.
And so, I think that look we oppose Nord Stream 2 simply because it’s bad for European Energy Security. Right, there is no other real reasoning behind it. Now of course we have this recent development over the past several years, that we’ve had this The Shale Revolution, this economic miracle, energy renaissance here in the United States, that doesn’t have any impact on our position on Europe’s energy security itself. Again, that’s been policy for four year, over the years.[00:34:42]
Jason Bordorff: Do you think we’ll see additional sanctions against Russia, by congress or the administration and would they target the energy sector?[00:34:49]
Dave Banks: Well, who knows what congress will do, right.[00:34:53]
Jason Bordorff: What about, there has been more talk that the administration might try to take actions against Venezuela to cutoff their sales of oil to these U.S. or maybe elsewhere in world, is that something you think is likely?[00:35:06]
Dave Banks: I think that is — I mean that’s a big issue now, I mean obviously the regime in Venezuela is a major problem, and it’s not just for U.S. National Security, but it’s also the impact on the country’s political system and just the — the growing humanitarian crisis that you have going on now, right now there’s — I think that when we look at it, there is no insight until Maduro goes, right or making sure that we help restore Venezuelan democracy.
But it’s complicating, because we have this dependency both, where they’re relying on U.S. Energy services and investment and some exports of certain product, and then also we have a number of refineries in the Gulf Coast that have been built and designed to handle heavy Venezuelan crude. And so, we want to make sure that whatever approach that we put forward, when it comes to the energy sector, we have to make sure — I can say this now that I’m on the outside, but we have to make sure that approach that the U.S. Government pursues is balanced., it’s thought through carefully, it’s very rational.
We have to ask is this — what kind of impact does this going to have politically on Venezuela, is it going to result in regime change, if it causes a humanitarian crisis, are we going to have to fix the problem, right, what does that do to regional security if that happens. And then on the U.S. side, what does this do to U.S. refineries, how many jobs do we lose, what’s the impact on consumers local in regionally.[00:37:03]
Jason Bordorff: The other national security issue that kind of comes up repeatedly, that impacts energy markets President Trump’s repeated threats to cancel the Iran nuclear deal and that’s coming up again soon, he has issued out meet them to congress and —[00:37:16]
Dave Banks: He makes that deal.[00:37:17]
Jason Bordorff: Do you think in the end it’ll actually be cancelled and sanctions go back into effect on around?[00:37:24]
Dave Banks: The President is really serious about it, I mean obviously there are number of concerns, right, but knowing where the President comes from on these issues, talks about a lot, he is sincere about it, I think all options are open to the President.[00:37:47]
Jason Bordorff: All right. We will have you back to talk more about these International Energy issues in addition and National Climate Issues. But, Dave Banks thanks for joining us on the Columbia Energy Exchange. And thanks to all of you for listening.[00:38:01]
Dave Banks: For more information about the Columbia Energy Exchange and the Center on Global Energy Policy visit online at energypolicy.columbia.edu and follow us on social media at columbiauenergy. We’ll see you next week.
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