Amidst President Joe Biden’s prediction of a potential thaw in relations with Beijing at the G7 conference, tensions over energy security are escalating. A bold and comprehensive strategy is imperative to maintain American energy dominance at home and curb Chinese influence abroad.
The United States remains an energy superpower thanks to its abundant natural resources, private sector innovation, and effective policies. Over the past decade, advancements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have propelled the country to become the world’s leading oil and gas producer. These developments have not only made energy more affordable domestically but have also strengthened America’s position globally. The nation’s energy resources are a cornerstone of its economic strength and power.
China, on the other hand, faces a different reality. It is the largest coal, oil, and natural gas importer worldwide. This year, China’s oil imports are expected to reach a record high, reflecting its insatiable energy demand. The reliance on energy imports has made energy security a growing concern for the Chinese Communist Party. President Xi Jinping and other high-level officials have emphasized the importance of energy security for the regime’s stability.
Recognizing this vulnerability, Xi has been employing diplomatic efforts to enhance China’s energy interests globally. He brokered a significant détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran, solidifying relationships with two of the world’s largest oil producers. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has also seen substantial investments in energy extraction and generation projects across Asia and Africa. Capitalizing on the energy transition, China has become a dominant player in clean energy manufacturing, producing most solar modules, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries worldwide.
As the energy transition progresses, China stands to gain significant economic and geopolitical advantages. To prevent China from achieving energy superpower status, the United States and its allies must focus on winning the domestic and international clean energy arms race. Smart industrial policies can help close the gap in clean energy manufacturing while onshoring critical mineral mining and processing will reduce China’s influence over supply chains. Strengthening partnerships with developing nations through capacity building and clean energy financing will also undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
While some advocate for collaboration with China on climate change, it is important to recognize the country’s status as the world’s largest polluter and its use of forced labour in the renewable energy industry. Rather than relying on Chinese cooperation, the United States should prioritize strengthening its energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and safeguarding its values and interests by outcompeting China in the clean energy race.
This approach has already shown promise in countering Russia’s influence. American liquid natural gas exports to Europe are diminishing Russia’s grip on Ukraine and reducing emissions by displacing Russian natural gas, which has higher emissions. Recent agreements, such as Poland’s deal with Westinghouse for a new nuclear reactor, are steps in the right direction but must be supported by a comprehensive energy security strategy.
Policymakers must recognize that energy security is a global issue with far-reaching risks and opportunities. A balanced approach that provides affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy at home while enhancing America’s influence abroad is crucial. Swift action is needed to pass permitting reforms, align trade and energy policies with Europe, prioritize fusion energy commercialization, and counter China’s influence in Africa and South America.
To check Xi Jinping’s ambitions and secure American energy dominance, the United States must adopt a new approach that addresses the challenges posed by China’s rise as an energy superpower.