“I’m driving on sunshine. Take that, Ahmadinejad!” –George Shultz
In an eye opening and enlightening interview with Mark Goldman of Clean Technica, Republican Statesman George Shultz lays out why energy efficiency is a personal cause and an integral part of national security.
Shultz, who served as an economist in the Eisenhower administration, has always been aware of the connection between energy policy and international relations. He tells Goldman, “I’ve been worried about our energy problem for a long time. President Eisenhower said that if we imported more than 20% of the oil we use, we were asking for trouble with national security. By 1973, I’m the secretary of the Treasury, and we have the Arab oil embargo. They seek to deny us oil in order to change our policies. I thought then, you know, President Eisenhower knew something.”
Shultz goes on to highlight one of the biggest challenges for proponents of clean energy research and development: enthusiasm is high when oil prices soar, but as soon as prices at the gas pump plummet, so does support for alternative energy. This pattern initially became apparent after the OPEC embargo.
“The price of oil went down and everything stopped, “ Shultz tells Goldman. “That’s happened a few times since then. We’ve been on this roller coaster ride. This time it’s important to make it different.”
Shultz believes strongly in controlling carbon as a way to positively impact national energy policy and shift resources away from fossil fuels towards cleaner alternatives. For Shultz, a carbon tax is a way to level the playing field.
“We have to have a system where all forms of energy bear their full costs,” he says in the interview. “For some, their costs are the costs of producing energy, but many other forms of energy produce side effects, like pollution, that are a cost of society. The producers don’t bear that cost, society does. There has to be a way to level the playing field and cause those forms of energy to bear their true costs. That means putting a price on carbon.”
For Shultz, a carbon tax can also help address the three major issues he sees affecting the country’s energy policy: national security, the economy, and the environment. In terms of national security, Shultz understands that importing oil puts us at risk, “we know that we don’t want to be vulnerable to sources of supply that are uncertain or send billions of dollars to regimes that are not our friends.”
And with our economy tied so closely to energy production, Shultz warns “every spike in the price of oil has put our economy in a recession. We want to have to have more diverse energy resources so our economy won’t be so vulnerable to the oil market.”
And then there’s the environment, a cause Shultz believes has always been in the wheelhouse of the Republican Party.
“Historically, Republicans have often protected the environment,” he explains. “President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. We dealt with the ozone layer under President Reagan and with acid rain under the first President Bush, both with bipartisan support.”
“People making careers out of disagreeing with each other is a very recent phenomenon” he opines before listing all the impacts our current energy policy has on our environment, and vice versa, including air pollution and global warming.
Shultz is optimistic that, when presented with the facts, those in a position to make changes—like congress—will find the power and incentive to act.
“You’ve got to be optimistic,” he says. “I’ve had enough jobs in government and elsewhere to know that if you’re not optimistic, you’re not going to get anywhere. If you get the material out there in front of everybody on this issue, it’s a no-brainer. It’s obvious we must act.”