Don’t Be Lulled by Low Oil Prices. We Need an Energy Plan.

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.

  1. Brian Turrisi - April 24th, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Hi Governor:
    I heard you talk at the World affairs Council in Hilton Head recently. I grew up in New Jersey and consider you the best governor the State has had in my lifetime. I also admire your balanced view of many things rather than become bogged in partisan politics.
    I do believe energy is a huge issue and the lack of a national energy policy is a major deficiency. But it seems that is not going to happen. Perhaps education is the second best approach then? The general public has too much of a “fear” of anything nuclear yet nuclear energy is as clean as it gets and it is really sad to see that the US nuclear power industry has fallen so far behind in the last 30 years. If we could educate the public more about the true safety and advantages of nuclear power, maybe the sentiment would change? Just a thought as I do believe politics and lack of logical understanding is the major roadblock to a real solution here. Increasing population and more technology is demanding ever increasing energy needs for the future.
    My career is in the sciences (physician) and I have a major interest in weather. Regardless of the “climate debate” going on, energy production that involves pollution is a health hazard if nothing else. All you have to do is look at China to see those results. So clean energy is not for health if nothing else.
    I am very concerned and a bit disturbed about the interjection of politics into the science of climate change. Pure science is not supposed to work this way. As a result, real science is not being conducted properly in this arena and many theories are being discarded without merit inappropriately. But that is another subject.
    In summary, I support your approach but do believe a public education approach is needed to ever reach a consensus on any energy policy. Nuclear is available right now and proven so it does not require new inventions and is relatively inexpensive. Look forward to hearing more from you.