THERE'S RENEWED ENERGY about energy. During the months leading to this month's elections, AGA has seized on scrutiny of rising wholesale natural gas prices to focus public and political attention on energy as the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and the fact that natural gas should become the dominant fuel flowing through the nation's veins.
At the time of this writing, we do not know whether our next president will be George W. Bush or Al Gore. No matter who is elected, he should use the powerful platform of the presidency to educate the public about the vital importance of a rational, national approach to energy policy centered on increased use of natural gas.
To succeed, he must help consumers understand the difficult trade-offs that must be made during the next few decades.
Predictable, knee-jerk reactions can sink even the most sensible policy ideas. Why? Because politicians, like most people, are biased toward maintaining the status quo -- however flawed. While trying to represent local or state constituencies, elected officials often lose sight of the larger, national good.
The president can help diffuse the "not in my back yard" objections to exploration, production, and construction or expansion of pipeline and utility facilities by explaining that more pollution, higher defense spending and slower economic growth will result from delays or prohibitions on such projects.
He must help consumers and businesses understand how competition has stimulated development of appliances and equipment that use natural gas more efficiently than ever -- and then promote increased federal research and development funding to promote further innovation, along with policies that promote a total energy-efficiency approach to measuring energy consumption.
The president should speak out about the innovative new natural gas and oil exploration and production techniques that leave a far smaller footprint on the environment than in the past. He also should encourage distinguished environmental organizations to promote prudent access to natural gas resources as part of an effort to reduce U.S. dependence on more-polluting fuels.
If the next U.S. president truly embraces natural gas as the fuel of the future, we will all breathe easier because the air will be cleaner, we will enjoy a stronger nation that uses energy more efficiently, and we will be far more energy-secure from the vagaries of foreign energy production.
President Theodore Roosevelt explained his view of the presidency by saying, "I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit."
If our new president uses his bully pulpit to teach and preach about rational energy policy, emphasizing the attributes and abundance of natural gas, let's lead the entire U.S. "congregation" in shouting "Amen."
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