By Christine Todd Whitman
The Experts
April 2, 2015

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN: With oil prices low, it would be easy to perceive that we as a nation have our energy issues under control. But despite the current benefits derived from oil prices that haven’t been this low in six years, we still need an overarching energy policy for the U.S.

In 1977, President Carter outlined a national energy plan based on 10 principles, the first of which was that “we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge…” Those words are just as true today as they were four decades ago. Congress hasn’t had a comprehensive energy bill since 2007, well before the widespread use of fracking and other current practices.

Industry analysts predict that we will need 29% more electricity by 2040, which may seem like the distant future, but is actually on the horizon for utilities given the size of the investments they need to make. Additionally, much of our aging energy infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. If we don’t build a new nuclear plant or some other form of clean-energy generation now, we are going to spend vastly more money when the situation grows desperate.

Currently, much of the focus is on the benefits of natural gas. This has happened before–when natural-gas prices are low it seems like the silver bullet. But prices will increase again just as they have in the past. We should take advantage of the current low prices, but not ignore the rest of the system as we plan for the future.

What is crucial to remember is that we have been here before; when prices are low, the energy arena feels under control. But if we don’t recognize that we are going to need the full panoply of energy sources available to us, we will soon find ourselves in a very bad place.

Christine Todd Whitman was governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001 and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003. She is currently president of Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies find solutions to environmental challenges.