Environmentalists can be too quick to lay blame on the energy industry for global warming. A recent summit in Oklahoma of alternative energy hosted by Congressman Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, was a reminder of the difficulties of the blame game: energy consumption is consumer driven.
This was not a summit on energy conservation, although sustainability was mentioned in light of how long the energy alternatives would maintain our current and future needs. For example, Tom Price, of Chesapeake Energy, had stated that natural gas reserves could keep us going another 100 years. Not surprisingly, energy needs were always shown as increasing over time.
While increasing demand might be a favorable model for any manufacturer discussing their business growth, increasing energy use is a new challenge. What other examples can you think of where a mass produced product was being blamed on a global crisis? If we weren’t so addicted to cheap energy, these companies would likely be out of business. Is it a stretch to ask a manufacturer to help their customers use less of their products?
I asked the Larry Nichols, one of the panelists and CEO of Devon Energy, what, if any, research is being done by Devon and the energy industry towards increasing efficiencies in production and use. “As an example, what if natural gas could keep us going for the next 200 years,” I asked. His answer was obvious: whether discussing production efficiencies, conservation policy, or any industry research, it is consumer driven.
As long as the company stakeholders require profits, policy supports free markets, and consumers demand cheap energy, Devon and other energy producers have no incentive for reducing consumer use.
Perhaps it was silly to ask a conservation question at an energy summit convened by leading energy producers. But I wanted to know if there was anything Devon and the energy industry could do to curb our own addiction for cheap energy. Mr Nichols reminds us that we must face addictive behaviors on our own. In the meantime, it will be business as usual for the energy industry.
If I am not willing to make significant changes in my own use of energy, why should I expect the energy industry to change their practices?