At 1 p.m. today in Gaston Hall, students stood up and enthusiastically greeted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a roar of applause. Dean of the School of Foreign Service Carol Lancaster introduced her to the stage. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard more noise in this place than right now,” she said.
Clinton was visibly pleased by the positive reception from students, saying, “I am a Hoya by marriage.”
Today’s talk revolved around the heavily debated issue of energy diplomacy in the 21st century. Clinton spent the majority of the lecture discussing America’s leading role in the implementation of programs to increase the focus and importance of energy in diplomatic conversations.
“It’s been a top concern of mine,” Clinton said. “America’s objectives for energy security is critical, and the steps that we are taking to try to achieve those objectives are ones I want to briefly outline.”
She added that the very “real threat of climate change” is an ever present concern for policy makers, and the United States has a vested interest in “helping the 1.3 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to energy.”
Of the several initiatives Clinton described, she announced the creation of a new bureau within the State Department devoted to discovering new and creative ways to deal with energy issues. Heading the bureau is Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual, who was in the audience at Gaston Hall.
With a nod to Dean Lancaster, Clinton also mentioned that six of the members on the bureau are Hoya graduates. “Make no mistake, in the past, the State Department obviously conducted energy diplomacy…when specific crises arose. But we did not have a team of experts dedicated full time to thinking creatively…and now we do,” she said.
Among the major issues at the forefront of America’s energy policy, Clinton sees heightened focus on the Arctic Circle as crucial. The Arctic possesses uncharted territory with new resources and the potential for catastrophe. “It is critical that we now act to set rules of the road to avoid conflict over those resources and protect the Arctic’s fragile system.”
She also addressed the issue of imposed sanctions by America and the European Union on Iranian oil. “What you may not know is how much painstaking diplomacy went into making these sanctions, first adopted and then effective,” she said.
She went on to discuss the crisis in South Sudan. During her recent trip to Sudan, Clinton’s goal was to “urge both parties to recognize that a percentage of something is better than a percentage of nothing…a month later they signed cooperation agreement. This was a step forward and I want to commend both sides for their leadership and courage.”
Above all, Clinton’s driving point was that the United States possesses the unmatched knowledge and influence in the international realm on clean and efficient energy. In a new initiative called Connecting the Americas 2022. The goal of the project is to provide universal access to electricity from Canada to Latin America by 2022. “The Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank have joined this project…this interconnection will help us get the most out of our nation’s resources,” she said. The hope is to put an end to energy poverty by working together within the hemisphere.
America’s leading role in energy diplomacy, according to Clinton, must remain extremely high and involved. Corruption and poor governance in many states around the world deepens the energy crisis, and she added that countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Mozambique, which were all embroiled in recent conflict, must be kept in check.
“The resources aren’t the problem; it’s greed,” she said. “[These countries] need support to ensure their energy resources don’t end up causing more suffering than good…We have no choice, we have to be involved everywhere in the world. The future prosperity of our nation hangs in the balance. All of us, especially all of you here today, have a stake in the outcome.”
Photo by Lucia He