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Activists call for energy leadership

John Tierney | Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strong political leadership is necessary to resolve the problems presented by the energy crisis, professor of Chemical Engineering Mark McCready said Monday at Pizza, Pop, and Politics: Choosing an Energy Policy.

“We could have some political leadership,” McCready said. “It doesn’t help if we just have people bickering on party lines, neither of which has half a solution.”

McCready compared the need for leadership in current energy crisis to Britain’s need for leadership during World War II – a void filled by Winston Churchill.

“There have been times in the past when leaders have stood up and said this is what’s important. We need that now,” McCready said.

In addition to the need for political leadership, McCready said the energy issue will also require personal action.

“You all can be responsible for your own lives,” he said. “You get what you support.”

Lourdes Long, founder and president of GreeND, agreed there is a need for energy oversight in society.

“We’re going to have to be attentive to our society,” Long said. “Not turning the heat on in the winter isn’t an option. We’re talking about deaths.”

High prices at the pump were a big issue for the panelists at the event, but those prices aren’t going to decrease anytime soon.

“Oil shouldn’t be cheap,” Long said. “It’s not cheap in most other nations. It’s a scarce commodity and demand is increasingly high.”

Professor of Economics and Econometrics Richard Jensen added: “Oil prices are going to rise,” he said. “We’re running out. The scarcer it gets, the higher prices are going to go.”

It’s important to remember the price of oil is not the only issue involved in the energy crisis, the panelists said.

“Price crowds out the other big concerns that are part of this issue,” GreeND vice president Colleen Kelly said. “It brings this issue to people’s attention, but it also crowds out other aspects.”

Long stressed all the issues of the energy crisis are interrelated.

“There seems to be a convergence on this energy issue,” she said.

Environmentalists, war hawks, economists, all “somehow have something in common now and can work toward common goals,” Long said.

The energy crisis can be boiled down to a three-fold issue, McCready said, citing energy security, energy sustainability and the impact of energy use on the environment as facets that must be addressed.

“We may have to make choices between one, two, and three on this one,” he said.

Most importantly, Long insisted an intelligent, healthy dialogue is necessary to solve energy problems.

“The dialogue really has been completely dumbed down this summer,” she said, referring presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama’s respective positions on domestic oil drilling.

On many facets of the energy issue, the candidates have quite similar positions, Long said. “They’re really the same on [drilling], it’s just a matter of language,” she said. “Our responsibility is to raise the dialogue.”