Twenty-nine years ago, as a young senate staffer, I went to a press briefing conducted by legendary Senator Scoop Jackson. Senator Jackson was chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and we were in the middle of a huge price spike, largely due to imperiled supplies.
Senator Jackson stated that by years end, the pump price would be a dollar. Gasps were heard (this was in the fall and prices were around 75 cents or so).
Jackson stated that we needed to get serious as a country about energy policy. Ideas were floated and headlines written. But, as a country, we settled into the mindset that it would all turn out ok. We procrastinated and little was done.
This “strategy” seemed to be bearing fruit in the late 90’s. Per barrel prices were in the teens or lower. Some U.S. oil executives even talked about pursuing a dumping petition, saying that foreign oil producers were selling their oil at too low a price!
So, here we are. I just finished a two-day drive to see my son at Michigan State University. There are noticeably fewer people driving on the interstate. Airlines are cutting capacity and communities are uncertain about their air service.
The airline business model has some challenges and I am not saying they are in trouble simply because of the price of oil. But it is undeniable that we are paying a price throughout the economy for the lack of an energy policy.
There are a lot of ideas out there and all have some merit. I am an optimist as I’ve said before. But if $140 per barrel oil can’t make us finally tackle this issue, then my optimism may run out.
Airports all over the continent are working with airlines to hold down costs, cut budgets and help the carriers run more efficiently. Hundreds of millions have already been saved through this collaboration with more to come. And airports are doing this even though their own costs are rising — one director of a smaller airport t told me his energy bill was 40 percent higher last month than the month before.
This is something that affects every American. It is not an aviation issue it is a national issue of overriding importance. This is one we all have to commit to put aside pre-conceived notions to tackle. All options must be explored. We’ve had 30 years of warning. There is no excuse for further inaction.