Energy Policy … my kingdom for an energy policy

Twenty-nine years ago, as a young senate staffer, I went to a press briefing Greg Principato - ACI-NA Presidentconducted 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.

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4 thoughts on “Energy Policy … my kingdom for an energy policy

  1. Greg I am absolutely behind your thoughts on this issue. Clearly we have had absent leadership on the energy crisis for years. I have been encouraged that society in general has begun to rally around “green” efforts that will begin to define a new mindset, which is how it starts. It seems that every house today at least runs a few of the new light bulb that uses lower watts and produces the footcandles of the more expensive bulb.

    It hasn’t been easy, because no one liked the shape, they hated them because they are slow to reach full candle strength. But they are catching on and we are adjusting. The kids that are growing up today will not know any difference. The problem is that this has largely been a commercial advance, some great marketing that made us feel good about doing something to save our planet.

    Energy dependence on another country, particularly in a politically charged world makes this type of commercial achievement tough, not impossible but much less likely than the success of lower watt bulbs.

    What we have to have from out leaders is a desire to help the consumer have affordable choices and incentives to try something new. Today’s hybrids while a great step are only now beginning to leverage their cost against the savings in fuel., now that fuel is $4. The government must do more with tax breaks to either the manufacturer or directly to the purchaser for the consumer to want to move in that direction.

    Once that move starts to take place, those can be reduced as the market starts driving innovation faster and manufacturing costs down. The saying that “if you build it they will come”, applies in this situation only if they can afford it. Back to the new age lightbulb, they started out costing $20 a piece two years ago. Today you can get a pack of 6 for $8.

    And we need to get a national conservation policy in place. Your point about less cars on the road is conservation being caused by $4 a gallon gas. But it is a shame that it takes price to drive this conciousness shoot we might all consolidate trips if we were asked. If somebody made it important; but our leaders don’t ask us to.

    There was an article not long ago about how during Jimmy Carters administration with his sweater wearing, turn the heat down to 68, drive 55 and turn out the lights when you leave a room preaching to the country we reduced our daily import of foreign oil from 8 million barrels a day to 6 million barrels a day. Today we are at 12.

    This is from a speech that Carter made in 1978. Mind numbing that we haven’t moved further.

    “It’s essential that we pass this energy legislation. It’s been thoroughly debated. All viewpoints have been considered. Compromises have been made for 14 months. Each day that we continue without a national energy policy further erodes our domestic economy and also our international image.”

    Carter may have been a weak president but you are right Greg we should be ashamed that as a country we haven’t figured it out.

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