Energy Independence Misguided Focus
A recent article posted in the NY Times by Michael Levi highlights my past concerns about Energy Independence talk. Amazingly enough I wrote about Energy Independence last December – http://allenergyconsulting.com/blog/2011/12/15/energy-independence-really/
I want to fine tune my message.
I do see Michael’s perspective in being concerned that we are mistaken about being energy independent as allowing the US to be ambivalent to the worlds energy markets. Clearly, the energy markets are global and will likely to be in the distant future. The theme I think Michael leaves out is the real message politicians and the like need to focus on, versus the concept of being energy independent – that is being productive with the resources we have.
I disagree with many about allowing exports of natural gas. If we are under full employment and the economy is humming along perhaps I could change my mind. However, since this is not the case, we need to think long and hard about why we can’t use our resources in a productive manner. The focus needs to be on stimulating manufacturing. We need to grow America to regain some of what we have lost over the last 30 years.
I like to note, manufacturing is not a path to riches for people, but it is a path to productivity and opportunity. What we have in this country is binary thought. If the working class can’t get a standard of living that allows 40-60K in income plus benefits, we shall accept nothing. It is no doubt a global economy for better or for worse. I have a very contentious thought about wealth which I mulled around with and discussed at bars with my most educated friends. I believe wealth is just like mass. It cannot be created or destroyed. There is a finite wealth in this world. Wealth is discrete globally and when one does better the other will have to do worse.
Let me define wealth more generally than just buying power, but also influence, and the ability to make others act. I believe my thesis holds water when you think about global economic growth. China and much of Asia, at one time, was thought as “third” world; they have grown to become an economic power.
With my thesis in place, the US and Europeans have slowly lost some ground to them holding the economic wealth in balance. The direct impact is the shift in “lower” end jobs in manufacturing. Time would eventually not allow a person making $60K plus benefit with the sole purpose to screw in 4 bolts to be able to compete with people in Asia, making less than $1 dollar a day. Likewise, let me not focus just on the lower income case. CEO’s in the US who do not add value but perpetuate the same concepts and ideas from previous CEO’s that are increasingly making more money than past CEO is also unsustainable. The competing landscape and the wealth balance that will occur, will produce sacrifices to allow others in the world to rise. In a holistic way and perhaps Altruistic – people living in such low standards of living for prolong time becomes inhumane and the sacrifices made from the developed regions have promoted a better lifestyle for them.
However as I point out to my kids that nothing in life is free. The sacrifices have been real and have been exaggerated by the binary thought – all or nothing. In order to balance wealth so that there is reasonable living standards for the masses, the developed country will need to reduce the standards of living, as their standards must compete with the other parts of the world standards. Alternatively one can be stubborn and go with the nothing attitude and live off the state, but this will lead to a very unstable society. I go back to my first point the value of manufacturing is not wealth building. The value comes from volume of employment it can produce. The ability to give masses something to do from 8 to 5 Monday thru Friday. Without this there will be trouble.
The US needs to innovate and take advantage of the abundant resources by creating efficient process to produce things the world uses from fertilizers to plastics to even vehicles. The abundant energy along with sacrifices from the top can ease the lowering of standard of living for the masses as parity is met with the rest of the world. Once again, let me stress both the low paying and high paying jobs. Both tails of the economic spectrum will have to sacrifice; a message that no politician can give since they need funding (high income) and volumes of vote (low income).
Happiness is not derived from money, but money is a requirement in today’s society. In addition, happiness does not come from consuming. We need to move off the binary thoughts and allow compromise. The US should move away from consumerism and regain our productivity focus. Letting any of our resources be exported is giving up on the American dream without fighting for it.
I wish all a safe and Happy Holiday. God bless this country and may we make the right choices.
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