Transcript: Amos Hochstein on "Face the Nation," Jan. 28, 2024


The following is a transcript of an interview with Amos Hochstein, a White House envoy and top energy adviser to President Biden, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Jan. 28, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the conflict in the Middle East and the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent a regional war. White House envoy Amos Hochstein is with us. And he’s been working on a diplomatic accord between Israel and neighboring Lebanon. He’s also a top adviser to the President on energy. How concerned are you right now that we are about to see another front open up in this war? 

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, I think we should all be very concerned about another front. And in fact, we have a somewhat of a front already. So from the beginning of this conflict, the day after October 7, October 8, there was shelling and action coming from Lebanon towards Israel,   reaction. And since then, we’ve been in a, sort of a low grade fight between Israel and Lebanon, President Biden has been clear that we want to do everything we can to prevent an escalation of that lower level conflict into an all out conflict that would drag us further into war and risk civilian lives on both sides. And that’s what we’re trying to do is to avoid that. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Hezbollah has been firing rockets, Israel has been carrying out strikes into southern Lebanon. You had brokered a maritime border between Israel and Lebanon. How close are you to getting a land border negotiated here?

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: So just over a year ago, we were able to negotiate a maritime boundary, which is really the first time Israel and Lebanon who, Lebanon doesn’t recognize Israel diplomatically, reached any kind of boundary agreement. What we need to do now is to get to two things. One is the cessation of hostilities across both sides, so that people over almost 100,000 people on each side and Lebanon and Israel are refugees in their own countries, because they can’t live in southern Lebanon or in northern Israel. So we have to get to a cessation of hostilities. But post October 7, we also have to make sure that Israelis and Lebanese can live in their homes with security. And that is not just a ceasefire, it requires a more intricate piece of the negotiations to ensure that the Lebanese army is in that area, that there is more parameters of security for civilians. Once we do that, though, we do need to start looking at how do we mark the border, an actual border, between the two countries so that we can have long term security and long term peace in an area that’s seen so many rounds of conflict over the last several years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And are you headed back soon?

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: I will likely head back soon. But I think we, this is something we do every day, not just when we’re in the region. We do this also when we’re here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because the Israeli government has said time is running short. Their defense minister said what, end of January?  

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, I don’t know about hard deadlines. But– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: The window for diplomacy is definitely there. And that is what President Biden has said we have to try to solve this diplomatically. I don’t deny that the status quo of where we are now can’t last forever. And that is why we need to make sure that we can get to diplomatic resolution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So oil prices jumped Friday, as you know, there was a tanker carrying Russian oil going through the Red Sea that was hit by rockets fired by Houthi militias. And we can see here a lot of ships going through that area have had to take longer routes because of this conflict here. How are you gauging the geopolitical risk when it comes to energy prices going forward?

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, I think we’re, we’re in a remarkable situation where we have two global conflicts, one, the ongoing war of Russia’s war against Ukraine, and what’s happening in the Middle East and the Houthis attacking the ships. So the first thing to remember, we are responding to the Houthi attacks. And this is not an attack on the United States or related to Gaza. This is an attack on the global commercial system, on global shipping lanes. This is not about just the United States. And that’s why the reaction has not just been the US. It’s US led, but this is a coalition, and a coalition that’s growing, both the diplomatic coalition, as well as the military coalition.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s also not stopping the attacks. 

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: Well, I think that we’ve seen a reduction of attacks. But let’s take the example that you gave of the ship on Friday. It was not an American ship not had not destined for Israel, either. It’s part of the global commercial system. It was aided by the US Navy, the French Navy and the Indian Navy, all vessels that were in the area, so and save the ship that was able to then move on safely and securely. The impact on the markets? Look, I think that there is a clearly a sentiment issue where prices have gone up a little bit because of this, but the actual cost to energy commodities, cargo ships, yes, they have to go around a further distance. It’s more logistics cost than it is an actual cost. The costs do go up. But if you look at what they impact, the inflationary impacts are relatively muted and we’re act– and we’re going to continue to work to mitigate and to grade the efforts that the Houthis have to attack. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. 

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: But also make sure that we can look at the global markets and make sure they’re not affected.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Washington Post reported you oppose the decision the White House announced Friday, to put limits on some liquefied natural gas projects in order to conduct environmental review. First of all, is that true? And given that we haven’t seen LNG prices really move, how significant can this decision really be? It looks very political.

AMOS HOCHSTEIN: So first, no, it is totally, I don’t know who’s saying that I oppose that, I did not oppose it. I think this is the right decision. I, the White House, in the White House in the Department of Energy and across the administration, there was full support for this decision, I was one of them. Look, where we have to look at this decision, as, for what it is. One, we are today, the largest exporter of LNG in the world. Based on what’s under construction with the United States, we’ll double our exports of LNG, our capacity to export LNG over the next three, four years. So we’ve already done an enormous amount. At some point, you have to stop and say, alright, this is how much we’re exporting. We now need to look, what are the economic impacts? Does the market still need significantly more that will come post 2030? And as we learn more, what are the environmental impacts so that we’re not just building this out without looking at all of the parameters that needs to be looked at when we, that’s why we do permitting.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Senator Manchin says he’s going to hold some hearings to get answers to the questions on, on what happened here and we will watch for that, and thank you for coming in. We’ll be back in a moment.



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