Moderator: Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with Dan Brouillette, U.S. Secretary of Energy. Secretary Brouillette will discuss the outcomes of his meetings with ministerial counterparts from the region and opportunities for regional energy investment and interconnectivity in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean, and he’ll take your questions.
We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic. We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.
I’ll now turn it over to Secretary Brouillette for his opening remarks. Sir, the floor is yours.
Secretary Brouillette: Thank you, Sam, and hello, everyone, and I’d like to start by first offering my apologies for being late. We had a meeting that ran slightly long, so my apologies for that. But thank you for joining us today and thank you for the opportunity to give you a quick update on the conversations that I’ve been having here in the UAE with our counterparts here as well as in Bahrain and Israel. It’s been a very exciting conversation this morning. These are conversations that began, initially, earlier this year, all as part of the Abraham Accords, and my purpose for being here in the UAE was to conduct a conversation in person, for the most part. We had one participant, Minister Steinitz, who’s actually – the Minister Steinitz joined us remotely or virtually.
But the conversations have focused on the things that we can do together, the four of us together, that will enhance and increase the interconnection opportunities for the nations that are seeking those here in the region. We talked about electricity being a starting point. We also talked about natural gas pipelines, the movement of natural gas throughout the region. And the entire focus and the entire purpose of the conversation is to provide affordable energy and access to energy to everyone in the region.
So one of the quick wins that we have is to begin a conversation, a second conversation, that will occur as early as January and will potentially include more countries from the region. We spoke briefly about invitations perhaps out to Oman, to Sudan, to Morocco, to the Palestinian Authority, as well as to Saudi Arabia and to Jordan. So those invitations will go out very, very shortly. We are hopeful that they will accept them and we will conduct this meeting virtually in January.
The other conversations that we have had have been around technologies, various technologies that we are seeing come to market in the United States, some technologies that we’re developing in our National Laboratories at the Department of Energy, and it’s our goal, it’s our desire to share some of that scientific work with the countries here in the Middle East.
So with that, I’ll stop and we’ll begin to take your questions.
Moderator: Great, thank you, Mr. Secretary. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. Our first question is one of our pre-submitted questions, from Mohammed Abdallah from Egypt’s Nile News TV. And Mohammed asks, “What kind of partnerships is the U.S. looking for in the Middle East? And Mr. Secretary, do you expect this will change with a new administration in the White House?” Over to you.
Secretary Brouillette: Well, I can’t speak to any new administration that might come down the road, but I suspect that the good work that has begun between our countries, including Egypt – I know Egypt has a great relationship with Israel. They have conducted some conversations under an organization called the Eastern Med Gas Forum. We expect that those types of conversations will certainly continue. It’s our goal in the United States and our interest here is to, again, produce energy and make it available to the region, but also to create economic opportunities for Egypt, for Israel, for others who would wish to provide natural gas or perhaps crude oil to others in the world. We have seen countries in Europe, for instance, become, in our view, overly dependent upon countries like Russia. To the extent that perhaps Eastern Med gas coming from Egypt can be used to supply Europe, we think that that is a very important geopolitical goal not only of the U.S. but for the Middle East as well. And to the extent that we can invite U.S. companies or U.S. investors to continue the development of those types of projects, we will continue to encourage it.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is from the live queue and goes to Hagay Hacohen from Israel’s Jerusalem Post. Over to you. Operator, please open the line.
Operator: The line is open. Please check your mute feature. Mr. Hacohen, your line is open.
Moderator: Okay, why don’t we go ahead and come back to him, and let’s go ahead and go to line 20, please. Jennifer Gnana from The National.
Question: Hello, can you hear me?
Secretary Brouillette: Yes, I can hear you fine.
Question: Hello? Secretary Brouillette, thank you for this opportunity. In your discussions with regional leaders, have they expressed any concerns about an emboldened Iran looking to bring additional oil barrels to the market next year? President Rouhani, for instance, has said that the country is preparing to bring additional supply within the next three months. What additional measures will be taken by the outgoing administration to restrict Iranian exports in addition to the maximum pressure that’s currently in place? Thank you.
Secretary Brouillette: Well, thank you for that question, and I think I can speak credibly for my counterpart at the U.S. Department of State, Mike Pompeo, although this is a question perhaps better addressed directly to him. But I do think that the maximum pressure campaign that the United States started many years ago, two or three years ago, is going to continue, and there are a number of reasons for that. I think many countries around the world still consider to be Iran a malign actor. We have seen terrorist activity, in many cases supported by either Iran or proxies of Iran around the world. And until that activity stops and until that behavior changes, I think you’ll see the maximum pressure campaign be sustained.
I think it’s very important for us as we look about – we look about the world, we’ve seen the stabilization of the world oil markets over the course of this pandemic. As demand has turned down, many nations have come together to assist each other, and I think that process is working very, very well. If it’s the intent of the Iranians to disrupt that stability, I think you’ll see nations react accordingly.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is a pre-submitted question from Samira Frimeche from Kuwait’s Annahar newspaper. And she asks, “Mr. Secretary, what are your expectations for investment in the energy field in the GCC?”
Secretary Brouillette: Well, I think there are many opportunities for investments here. We are aware that the – interestingly, countries like the UAE, others, are moving toward renewable energy for the provision of electricity in the region. And while the United States has produced many of the technologies that we now see coming to market, others have been able to take these technologies and advance them in ways that we could not have foreseen just 20 years ago. And we’d like to encourage that; we’d like to pursue those opportunities with them. And I think for American investors, for American companies, it prevents – it presents a unique opportunity for things like battery storage. We are moving very aggressively in the United States to develop the next generation of battery storage, some of which will involve solid-state batteries which will allow for grid-scale storage opportunities. We’d like to partner with Kuwait, partner with other GCC countries in the development of those types of technologies. We think they’re very, very important and we’d like to see them come to market as quickly as possible.
Moderator: Great, thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question comes from the live queue and it goes to Mr. Ray Hanania from Arab News newspaper.
Question: Hey, Secretary Brouillette. Thank you for taking my call.
Secretary Brouillette: Thank you.
Question: I just – I’m interested: What were the specific objectives or concerns and requests that Israel had in your meetings, and what were the specific objectives, concerns, and requests from the Arab countries? And have those – have you extended those invites to those other countries like Egypt, Morocco, and the Palestinian Authority?
Secretary Brouillette: No, we have not. We’re very – we just —
Secretary Brouillette: I’m sorry?
Question: I apologize. Have you already extended those invites and gotten a response from them to participate?
Secretary Brouillette: No, we just agreed to do that today, just agreed to it this morning. So, no. To answer your question, the invitations have not gone out yet, but they will very shortly and we’ll do some additional coordination work on our part before they actually go out. But I expect that very soon they will.
With regard to the very – the specific things that we discussed today, we talked about opportunities that may actually exist already. There’s been some good work done, as I mentioned earlier, in the Eastern Gas Med Forum on the movement of gas throughout the region with Israel and Egypt. We talked about the Tipline pipeline. We think that there are some opportunities there as well for the movement of both crude oil and perhaps other products in that pipeline that runs from Eilat to Ashkelon. We think that there are some opportunities there. We do think that there are some opportunities with regard to the movement of electricity and, importantly, what we discussed very specifically this morning was the enormous opportunity that we have for potentially moving hydrogen, and the development of hydrogen and the movement of hydrogen throughout the region. There seems to be a fair amount of interest in those technologies as well, so we discussed that at some length today as well.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is from the live queue and goes to Mr. Dan Williams from Reuters. Operator, please open the line.
Operator: Mr. Williams, your line is open.
Question: Hi, can you hear me? Hello?
Secretary Brouillette: Yes, I hear you fine. Yes.
Question: Hi, thanks for taking my call. Does the Trump administration plan any change of U.S. policy toward Israel’s undeclared nuclear capabilities, perhaps something along the line of the deal with India in 2005, the civilian supply deal?
Secretary Brouillette: That’s a great question. What I’d like to do is perhaps follow up with you individually. I’m not aware of any potential changes at the moment but I would be happy to make myself available later to discuss it in some detail.
Question: Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is from the live queue and goes to Emma Graham from CNBC.
Question: Hi there. You can skip me. Thank you so much, though. I press 1-0 by accident. Thank you.
Moderator: Okay, thank you. Operator, let’s please go to line 25, Mr. Mike Wagenheim from i24 News.
Question: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate you taking the time for us today. A question for you about the broad vision for energy partnership that was inked by the U.S., Israel, and the Emiratis in early October. Have there been any concrete steps in advancing that partnership since the time of that signing?
Secretary Brouillette: Yeah. Well, this actually adds to it. This is one of the first steps that we’re taking in response to that agreement. So this is the first of what will become, we hope, many conversations and concrete steps. So we’ll keep you apprised of that as we move along.
Moderator: Great, thank you. Our next question is also from the live queue and goes to Lizzy Porter from the Iraq Oil Report.
Question: Thank you. Can you hear me?
Secretary Brouillette: Yes, I hear you fine.
Question: Hi there. Thank you for the call, Secretary. Both you and the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have issued social media posts about working together to develop gas in the semi-autonomous region, but there hasn’t been any follow-up as far as we’re aware. Could you elaborate on any details?
Secretary Brouillette: Sure. We are conducting a study, working closely with the prime minister and his office. That study will be ready towards the end of the month and I’m aware of an active conversation that’s occurring between his office as well as some American investors and producers, and I would expect an agreement to be reached very, very shortly. They are down to literally a handful of words, and if we can resolve those matters very quickly I think we’ll see some additional development in the Kurdistan Region from American investors.
Moderator: Great, thank you, Mr. Secretary. Our next question is a pre-submitted question from Asma Fernane from Algeria’s El Bilad, and she asks, “How can the participation of the private sector be enhanced in the Euro-Mediterranean energy field?”
Secretary Brouillette: Well, I think that one of the things that we have focused on is the – providing what we refer to in the United States as regulatory certainty, transparency. In the United States, for those of you who are familiar with our legal construct and with doing business there, we think it’s very important that we provide things like certainty of contracts, sanctity of contracts. When you sign a deal, it should remain the same all throughout the deal unless both parties or all parties agree to changes. Those are basic legal concepts that we think are important. They have provided over the years an enormous amount of certainty for investors. We think that as we look at the Middle East, as we look at countries in Africa perhaps, it’s important for us to establish those types of principles. It’s also important for us to establish regulatory structures that are transparent, that people understand what the rules are and can follow them before making the investments. Those are just important concepts that we have been discussing with our partners all across the world, and the reception to those have been very, very well received.
Moderator: Great, thank you, Mr. Secretary. We have time for one last question, and the last question is another question from Jennifer Gnana from The National.
Question: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, you recently extended the energy export authorizations through 2050. Could you talk about how much capacity we can expect short-term? And also, what export markets are you looking for U.S. LNG? Are you in discussions with the UAE and countries in the GCC for sales of liquefied gas? Thank you.
Secretary Brouillette: Well, the short answer to your question is: more. That’s what we want, is more – more capacity and more exports from the United States. We see our opportunities being perhaps Asia, others, as demand comes back post-pandemic. As we have all seen as producers of energy around the world, the demand curve for crude products, for refined products, for natural gas products have all been in decline. We need for that demand to come back, but when it does we expect that the United States, we expect UAE, we expect others to be right back in that marketplace supplying what we know will be very strong demand, either for the production of electricity in certain cases or for petrochemical products around the world.
So we know that that’s going to happen. The reasoning behind the extension for the export authorizations in the United States until 2050 is that we want to again provide that regulatory certainty that I just spoke of so that industry can see very clearly we are committed to this marketplace and we intend to stay in it for quite some time. So it’s, we think, the appropriate move to do in the United States. We look forward to working with others around the world, collaborating with them as we serve these markets.
Moderator: Great, thank you, Mr. Secretary. And now, if you have any closing remarks, Mr. Secretary, I’ll turn it back over to you.
Secretary Brouillette: No, only to say thank you to all of you for joining. The conversations that we started today here in UAE – they have been most gracious hosts – I think are important for the world, not only for the Middle East, and it’s important that they continue. We will be active partners with the UAE, with Bahrain, with Israel, and with anyone else who wishes to join us as we expand this opportunity to other partners in the region in January. So thank you for joining us today. Thanks to – thank you for your questions, thank you for your interest in this, and I look forward to staying in touch with you.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. That concludes today’s call. I would like to thank Secretary Brouillette for joining us and thank all of our callers for participating. If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at DubaiMediaHub@state.gov. Information on how to access the English recording of this call will be provided by AT&T shortly. Thank you and have a great day.