The global economic landscape is changing rapidly due to two major forces: The reemergence of geopolitical competition among the world’s most powerful nations and a shift to low-emission economies in the West. 

These forces are driving trade and investment, creating new economic patterns, partnerships, risks and opportunities for global leadership. These forces influence economic competitiveness and our national security. 

This landscape is dangerous and unpredictable, but it also offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the global economy for the next century. Creating and executing a low-emission, energy-driven economic development strategy will provide the United States with a regional competitive advantage that will strengthen the nation’s security interests. 

Why now?  

Around the world, economies are increasingly putting a price on emissions. Whether through policy and tax actions, in response to consumer demand, or strategic decisions made by capital markets, the cost of carbon emissions tied to products and services will impact competitiveness and change the global trade landscape.  

Simultaneously, competition among the U.S., China and Russia is intensifying. These countries are trying to draw other nations into their sphere of influence to control the resources that will dictate the future economy. Their ability to convince nations to partner with them and provide preferential access to their materials is influenced by the ability to offer a value proposition that includes technology offerings, technical assistance and the appearance of social and environmental responsibility and sustainability. 

Nations that can develop and deploy technologies, business models and partnerships that lower the emissions content of their products and services will gain an edge; those that can’t will fall behind. 

It’s that simple and that important. These changes mark the new frontier of economic development and security, and it is imperative that the United States leads in this area. 

At home, this frontier presents an opportunity for local and regional businesses to lead in advanced manufacturing, mining, resource development and other energy-intense businesses — a regional-to-global approach to economic competitiveness. State partnerships are key to providing businesses a competitive edge, particularly partnerships between states that possess key natural resources and are focused on economic and energy transitions. 

Idaho National Laboratory, the nation’s nuclear energy research and development hub, has formed the Frontiers Collaboration, a partnership with leaders in the states of Wyoming, Alaska, Utah and Idaho. The goal is to implement a regional-to-global strategy for competitiveness.  

This collaboration is focused on driving economic development through industries powered by advanced nuclear energy. Stakeholders include state government agencies, private sector companies, national laboratories and academia. The states involved are advanced nuclear energy first-movers planning to deploy advanced reactors. These states are innovative, entrepreneurial and have broad energy interests that are in flux. Such attitudes are powerful differentiators to gain regional and national advantages. These states are truly the laboratories of innovation at the new frontier. 

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The Frontiers Collaboration aims to mobilize and enable transformational leadership in the participant states focused on the challenges at the frontier of global economic competition. The collaboration will leverage shared competencies and common needs to grow the energy economy, strengthen state competitive positions in global markets and position the United States for a strong and secure industrial future. 

These advanced nuclear energy first-mover states have an opportunity to establish a global leadership position in low-emission industry development, as well as the technology developers and manufacturing supply chains that service these industries. 

The Frontiers Collaboration is forward thinking and focused on enabling private sector deployment of zero-emission nuclear energy in industrial processes and activities. Accordingly, state governments play an important role in assessing policy roadblocks and inefficiencies, reaching out to communities and other stakeholders, and promoting state industry and products on the low-emission frontier. 

In short, the Frontiers Collaboration is an example of how states are leading the energy and economic transformation to secure our nation and enable their citizenry. I applaud the visionaries in these states for working today to pioneer the energy economy of tomorrow. 

Dr. Steven E. Aumeier is the senior advisor of strategic programs for Idaho National Laboratory. Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment.