Monday, November 16, 2009

What if There WAS NO Industrial Energy Policy?

Let's say, for whatever reason, that an industrial energy policy is not wanted or needed. Let's ignore for now the predictable rejoinder that "no policy" is itself a policy. From a U.S. perspective, here's the result:

1. Without a public policy emphasis on energy, we'd be competing against "energy smart" economies that have a greater flexibility to handle resource scarcity and evolving regulatory and market needs.

2. Without development of energy-efficient technologies, we would simply conduct business-as usual, a model predicated on a 1960's expectation of cheap, limitless energy. This would be reinforced by our dependence on old paradigms for industrial technology, capital and organization.

3. Without a supporting energy research and development infrastructure, we lose the power, efficiency, and economy of coordinated R&D resources. We condemn ourselves to wasteful "reinvention of the wheel" instead of harnessing collaborative synergies. We can argue that there's a risk management benefit in having redundant research paths, but this works only if political battles among the different path sponsors don't get out of hand.

4. If we fail to encourage the training of an energy-efficient workforce, we forfeit the comparative advantage of labor productivity characterized by energy-smart behavior and procedures. We resign our industry to competing on wage rates alone-- not a good strategy for the U.S. and many other developed nations.

5. If we do not convene industry-wide initiatives to adopt energy efficient technologies, we forfeit a competitive advantage to countries that excel in such coordination-- as many already do.

6. If we chose to forfeit our national security, a good way to do this is to remain dependent on foreign suppliers of resources-- the more the better.



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