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  • Jeff Schuster

Inconvenient Leadership

The Right Energy Decisions May be Unpopular

In our world, we face difficult decisions daily. Energy and climate change are one of those difficult decisions. Al Gore produced a movie called Inconvenient Truth in 2006, where he laid out some alarming facts about the connection between CO2 in our atmosphere and global warming. A large group of people took to heart the message in this movie and are actively persuading government and companies to focus their efforts on climate-change.


As a life-long advocate of energy conservation and environmentalist, I applaud efforts by all people to use less energy. As a life-long businessman, I believe strongly in the free-market. However, I don't believe the free-market will automatically protect the environment in its pursuit of profits. This means government regulations to protect the environment are inevitable. I further believe that it is our God-given duty to steward the resources on this planet we’ve been given.


That said, I believe we (most people on this planet) are making erratic decisions when it comes to energy and climate-control. Well-meaning environmentalists are strong-arming governments and companies to make decisions in haste because "we must save the planet or die."


COVID-19 Pandemic

The best illustration of the type of erratic decisions that can be made were evident in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019-22. This pandemic is still fresh in the minds of many. In this emergency, governments made a variety of decisions that will be objectively judged by history to be idiotic. We decided to shut down our economies, our schools, our churches, our social interaction with others, vacations, and life to prevent the spread of COVID19. While there were cries from the minority about how such shutdowns would be detrimental, the emergency of the COVID19 pandemic drown out dissenters. The dissenters to COVID19 lockdowns were called “deniers”, “anti-vaxers”, and their voices were censored as misinformation from any public forum.


What were the results of this frantic response?

  • 6.5 million deaths – (2,000 deaths daily Sept. 2022)

  • Trillions of dollars of debt.

  • Disrupted supply chains that have not yet re-emerged.

  • Highest rate of inflation in 40-years.

  • Lower academic achievement across the board.

  • Another divisive wedge issues for politicians to divide us.

I am not picking a side in how this pandemic should have been handled. It’s easy for anyone in the future to judge past decisions as idiotic. It’s much harder to make the best decisions in the moment.


Our Energy Future

Unlike the COVID19 pandemic, we are “in the moment” with our energy policies for our energy future. We are following the same emergency protocol as we did in the COVID19 pandemic. Alarmists are shouting gloom and doom predictions from the rooftops, dissenters are being called “climate deniers”, corporate leaders are caving to ESG (Environment, Social & Governance) investor threats, and governments are labeling new debt spending as “green”. Meanwhile, solar, wind, and electric car companies are salivating over their government welfare checks.


Like the COVID19 pandemic, the majority is willing to give up personal liberty to “save the planet”. Large companies will become wealthier with products that pander to fear instead of solving problems. Worst of all, the challenge with global warming and energy security will remain unchanged.


Hard Decisions take LEADERS

I find myself on both sides of the pandemic debate. I empathize with those who wanted to avoid this deadly virus. I also empathized with those impacted by our disrupted economy. I believe that there was a solution that could have respected personal liberty, maintained economic health, and minimized COVID19 deaths. To make the right decisions, leaders must resist the pressure of special interest groups and weigh many different factors. Inevitably, the “right” decision will rarely be the most popular decision.


Let's consider some outcomes for a leader who makes a decision on our energy future:

  • If a leader favors investing in green technology, he/she will be heralded by climate-change activists and denounced by climate-change-opponents. (40% popularity)

  • If a leader favors investing in fossil fuel, he/she will be heralded by its fans and denounced by climate-change activists. (30% popularity)

  • If a leader weighs environmental concerns and economic concerns and decides to implement regulations to protect the environment; but avoids spending government money on green energy, he/she will be denounced by climate-change-activists and the fossil fuel industry (20% popularity).

Most leaders who benefit their communities and the world are not recognized as great leaders until they are long gone; and the world has benefitted from the decisions they made. Sadly, these folks rarely make it to authoritative positions because they lack the ability to win popularity contests.


Good Leaders Need Educated Followers

For good leaders to make it, good followers must support them. For good followers to support good leaders, those followers must educate themselves on critical world topics. As I write this blog post, I understand that such education is a monumental task. As a salesman, I understand that people buy with emotion and justify with fact. If you’ve picked a side in this emotional debate, you must first become aware that you have biases that prevent you from valuing legitimate arguments from the other side.


Politics = Hypocrisy = No Progress

One tactic to expose political thinking is to recognize hypocrisy when it emerges. Politically polarized opinions are fraught with hypocrisy. In the U.S., citizens were forced to stay in their homes, wear masks, and get vaccinated or lose their jobs. At the same time, immigrants were pouring in through the southern border untested, unvaccinated, and undaunted. If isolation was the key to defeating COVID19, then undaunted border crossings would have been resisted by the same people who were advocating strict COVID19 policies. They were not.


In our energy debate, the push is to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. The same proponents of solar and wind energy; won’t consider nuclear energy. If carbon-dioxide is the enemy of the environment, objective environmentalists will equally consider both solutions. They are not.


What Can We Do?

Energy and the environment are complex topics that touch every part of our lives.

  • We can advance social justice by keeping energy bills affordable for average people.

  • Government can use regulatory power instead of increasing national debt.

  • We can stop subsidies to oil, gas, and renewable energy alike.

  • We can increase nuclear power plant electricity generation for base and winter electric loads.

  • We can search out battery technologies that are more environmentally friendly.

  • We must accept that the earth has climate cycles that surpass our efforts to change those cycles.

  • We must use fossil fuels until we have a viable replacement.

  • We must achieve environmental responsibility while preserving individual liberty.

Good energy leadership is not popular unless the people educate themselves on energy matters. Each source of energy impacts the environment and the economy in a different way. A growing population and a growing economy in any part of the world requires energy for its growth. This means that energy needs will always be increasing. Growth denial serves no one. We live in a time where we have an opportunity to build an energy foundation that will serve our planet and our human population well for centuries to come. Let’s avoid the alarmist rhetoric… and do it right.

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