Energy Policy (?)...Blah, Blah, Blah
October 13, 2005
Did you ever feel as though you were stuck on a merry-go-round and you just couldn’t get off? Well, welcome to the world of National Energy Policy...brought to you by the indictable negligence of your elected officials, both Democrat and Republican.
A cornerstone of commonsense is the ability to be proactive. Good leadership requires proactive leadership skills. Proactive people control the game; reactive people are controlled by the game. If you can walk and chew gum, there is a certainty that someday you will retire and that is why you proactively invest today for tomorrow. Reactive people are financial Carpe Diem types who hit 65 with 8 hot tubs, 5 surround-sound systems and not a penny in the bank. Whoops...now what do I do?
History bears out the presumption that America is a reactive nation. Throughout the 1930’s, the Japanese murdered millions of Asians, but America danced to Glenn Miller on the night of December 6, 1941 and went to war only after Pearl Harbor was devastated on the morning of December 7th. Similarly, America frolicked with muscle cars throughout the 1960’s and only woke up to their thirsty gas-guzzlers when OPEC launched its first strike in 1973.
The reaction of the nation and its leaders was the same then as it is today: (1) blame OPEC (today we also blame China); (2) blame the oil companies; (3) dream about price controls (currently morphed into an “excessive” profits tax); and pay lip-service to conservation and alternative energy sources.
The 1973 oil crisis, and all the energy crunches that have since followed, were viewed as political inconveniences. Voters were angry about increased energy costs wreaking havoc on their lifestyles and politicians feared that this anger would transform into Election Day backlash. The political reaction to every energy crisis is a regurgitation of “The Dog Ate My Homework”. It is everybody’s fault except for those who created it.
If only those in the Beltway could understand National Energy Policy as a greater threat to national security than liberals view the Ten Commandments or conservatives view pornography. Oh sure, politicians always throw in something about “a threat to national security” when energy disruptions occur, but they always talk about spending cuts at budget time...blah, blah, blah. The masses always need a little fluff.
In March of 2001, I wrote Economic Suicide. The article was a discussion of the pressing need for a REAL National Energy Policy as a priority National Security matter. That article addressed the limp-wristed history of National Energy Policy and lamented that “If, during the boom of the 1980’s and 1990’s, while national wealth was increasing along with the stock markets the U.S. had been diligently implementing a program to conserve energy and transfer energy consumption from fossil fuel to alternative sources then today America would be much less fossil fuel dependent. If the buyers of the millions of new homes had just used solar heat and received tax credits for doing so, the demand curve for fossil fuels would look much flatter and our economy would not be held hostage to world energy prices.” Isn’t it sad that today, America is still hanging in an energy noose.
It’s almost serendipitous that between 2001 and now, America has prospered through yet another housing boom. What if all of those new homes were truly energy efficient and fueled by readily available alternative energy sources? Think we might be facing a happier winter heating season?
In another 2001 article, Lights Out, I pointed out that “It is irreconcilable to have Liberals screaming for pristine air and no new power plant construction while at the same time supporting unrestricted immigration and the expansion of the welfare state. If you want to add demand, you had better add supply.” That statement is as true today as it was in 2001.
But once again, the government’s solution is to urge people to “...turn off lights, change thermostat settings, drive slower, insulate homes and take other steps.” If I wanted to live like this, I would move to the Third World.
And yet, with: (1) energy prices crippling many Americans and about to cripple the economy; (2) energy demand exceeding energy supply and (3) uncertain ability to meet energy demand in the foreseeable future...the best Congress can do is to play the same old song and enter into a gridlock of political gamesmanship on energy legislation.
When a piece of substantive energy legislation, Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005, finally passes the House and is headed for the Senate, rather than make it work, the “bipartisan” political forces are trying to destroy it. The legislation offers incentives for the construction of new petroleum refineries (a new one has not been built in 30 years). With America’s demand 4 million barrels a day greater than our domestic ability to supply, this seems like a reasonable approach.
But Democratic Minority Leader Pelosi’s solution to the energy crisis goes something like this, “"A vote that was supposed to take five minutes took more than nine times that long because the indicted Republican leader of the House of Representatives needed extra time to twist the arms necessary to pass a bill that is against the interests of the American people, against consumers, against taxpayers, and against the environment.” I can see that she is really focused on keeping people warm this winter.
It is so curious that America has the ability to solve its energy crisis while still maintaining its quality of life but refuses to do so. Energy efficient homes, nuclear power generation, expanded refining capacity, shale oil production and clean burning coal-fired generation plants are all economically viable if the technology is utilized in sufficient scale...And if government and special interest groups quit impeding their development.
As the LA Times reports, “The most daunting obstacle, however, might be the oil companies themselves. After all, they are profiting mightily from the status quo... In the last two years they look like they have been printing money and they don't want the party to end anytime soon.”
I’m not counting on the oil companies, OPEC, special interest groups (either pro or anti energy) or the MSM to formulate and enact a National Energy Policy that ensures National Security. I am counting on the only entity tasked with that responsibility...the US government and its elected officials. If, after over 30 years of living under an energy dagger they can’t get it right, then it is time to clean house and start again.
Of course we could just shut off the lights and welcome ourselves to the Third World.