By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States must lead in the global transition to clean energy or risk losing influence in South Asia and Africa, a coalition of retired U.S. generals and admirals said in a report released on Tuesday.
Energy, whether oil and natural gas, or wind and solar power and advanced batteries, is an important part of the economic power Washington has that can influence developing economies, said the report by CNA Military Advisory Board, called Advanced Energy and U.S. National Security. (http://bit.ly/2r1StT2)
Along with diplomatic and military power, economic power, including energy technology and trade, underpins national security, said the report, funded by the Tellus Mater Foundation and the Energy Foundation, groups that support the transition to cleaner forms of energy.
"We Americans need to get our butts in gear," Lee Gunn, a retired Navy vice admiral, who helped write the report, said in an interview.
Washington has developed relations in the Middle East since the early 1930s when oil exploration began in Saudi Arabia, and a large part of its military presence in the region has protected the flows of petroleum to the West.
But as the world's energy needs grow and spread to new regions and as consumers become open to new technologies, the United States must also adapt, said the report, which the authors discussed with security and defense officials in the Trump administration.
Russia and Iran, two countries not always friendly to Washington, are positioning themselves to meet burgeoning oil and natural gas demand in India and China. For example, a nearly $13 billion agreement giving Russian state oil firm Rosneft and its partners a 98 percent share of India's Essar oil company is expected to close this month. [nL8N1IZ4ZB]
Meanwhile, China and countries in Europe are leading the way in investing in clean energy in Africa and India, where energy demand is expected to grow strongly for decades.
"The transition to advanced energy is underway and will proceed with or without the active participation of the U.S. government, or technology, or in terms of manufacturing," Gunn said.
The report did not mention the Paris Agreement on climate which President Donald Trump last week pulled the United States out of. It recommended that the evolving global energy landscape should be fully integrated into U.S. national security and national defense strategies. It also said the federal government should share investments with the private sector in advanced energy projects.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by James Dalgleish)