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Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak attend a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC members on April 20, 2018. Photo: Amer HIlabi/AFP via Getty Images

Market fears of snapback sanctions on Iranian oil exports have caused oil prices to rise, providing a stark reminder that the U.S. is still the world's largest oil consumer. In response to the trend, President Trump said that such prices "will not be accepted."

Why it Matters: In a global oil market dominated by OPEC and private U.S. shale producers, the Trump administration actually has little direct influence on prices and is largely at the mercy of market forces. Meanwhile, the administration has done little on clean energy, where policy could make a meaningful impact.

In past price spikes, administrations were limited mostly to releasing strategic petroleum reserves. But now, the availability of significant U.S. shale oil exports at least partially offsets the impact of geopolitical disruptions from Iran or Venezuela, without the use of reserves. Yet the surge in U.S. crude exports is a market- rather than government-led exercise. As such, it is hard to manage as a policy tool, due to myriad factors ranging from individual company investment decisions to infrastructure bottlenecks.

Yes, but: While the Trump administration searches for policy direction with OPEC and oil market disruptions, it has retreated from an active role on renewable and alternative energy, where the market alone is not likely to drive U.S. leadership. Absent clearer policy signals from Washington on clean energy and climate policy, it is doubtful that the U.S. will keep pace with China as it aggressively deploys state capitalism to lead in areas such as batteries and electric vehicles.

The bottom line: To a far greater extent than policy, it's the strength of capital markets, infrastructure, upstream technology and human capital that have driven U.S. energy dominance through the shale boom. It is less clear that these same assets, absent government leadership, will be as effective in maintaining that dominance in the energy markets of tomorrow.

Robert Johnston is CEO of Eurasia Group and a Fellow at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump-backed Perdue says he wouldn’t have certified Georgia 2020 results

Perdue at a December 2020 campaign event in Columbus, Ga. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Georgia gubernatorial candidate David Perdue wouldn’t have signed the certification of the state’s 2020 election results if he had been governor at the time, the former Senate Republican told Axios.

  • “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for," he said.

Why it matters: There has been no evidence widespread fraud took place in Georgia's elections last year and the November results were counted three times, once by hand.

Beijing Olympics: These countries have announced diplomatic boycotts

Photo: Zhang Qiang/VCG via Getty Images

Several countries, including Canada and Australia, have announced they will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest human rights abuses committed by China's government.

Driving the news: Leaders have faced pressure from human rights groups and others to boycott the Games, pointing to the ongoing genocide of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang region and other abuses.

Biden directs federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050

President Biden speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Dec. 8.

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday that requires the federal government achieve multiple goals related to reducing its carbon emissions, including achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Why it matters: Meeting the objectives of the order would require a massive investment by the federal government to buy electric vehicles, upgrade buildings and change how it procures electricity.