From the Houston Chronicle editorial board:
A self-described “car guy” brought a timely sales pitch on energy to Houston on Wednesday. He sold us.
“We’ve been given a gift,” Dan Akerson told the Chronicle editorial board a few moments before delivering his keynote speech to the IHS CERAWeek audience of elite energy thinkers, movers and shakers gathered here this week. “Our leadership – corporate and political – has to reach agreement on how best to use it.”
Hear, hear, especially coming from Akerson’s lips.
The mild-mannered U.S. Naval Academy graduate isn’t just any car guy. He’s the CEO of General Motors. And he wasn’t describing just any gift. He was talking about the nation’s recent windfall of shale gas that has been made more accessible by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. As he rightly pointed out, that technology has made this country the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. For heaven’s sake, let’s use it to full advantage.
We give Akerson high marks for being willing to step out of his comfort zone as an automobile executive and calling on the nation to create its first “sustainable, consumer-driven energy policy.” Thank you, sir. This kind of leadership has been noticeably absent in political circles.
What would such a policy look like? It would start, he says, with the appointment of a blue-ribbon commission to develop a 30-year energy policy framework with check points every five years. Given the nation’s recent experience with another blue-ribbon commission, Simpson-Bowles, that recommendation will likely draw its share of skeptics, especially among the independent types who inhabit the energy world.
But let’s hear Akerson out. He says the commissioners, appointed by the president from a variety of professional backgrounds, would be given a specific charge: Develop a plan to improve our standard of living by extending the duration of the natural gas and tight oil “dividend” for as long as possible.
What does he mean by “standard of living”? Akerson has specifics: affordable energy with certainty of availability, cleaner air and water, lower CO2 emissions, a significantly lower trade deficit and a balanced budget.
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Offhand, the only specifics we think he’s overlooking are enhanced national security and more robust economic growth.
As he points out, achieving this objective would require a process of give-and-take between traditional adversaries such as corporations and labor unions to achieve a common good. That’s been out of style in Washington for longer than we care to remember. Perhaps the private sector – and that would specifically include consumers – will have to show the way.
We can only hope that these forward-looking remarks will somehow catch the ear of General Motors’ former stockholder-in-chief, President Barack Obama, whose continuing indifference to real-world energy solutions is baffling. Here in the heart of the oil patch, they certainly capture our attention.