As of this writing (mid-July 2008) gasoline at my local Chevron station is selling at $4.57 per gallon; rows of giant SUVs sit unsold at the local car dealers; my home energy bill for month of June was $527; airlines are parking jets, dropping routes, and charging passengers for checking bags and seat selection; politicians argue over drilling offshore, building new nuclear power plants, and installing wind farms off the scenic shores of famous politicians’ homes; and, somewhere, Al Gore is smiling.
He may be smiling, but there are a whole of lot of unhappy people in the United States: people who can’t afford to heat or cool their homes, who are having a hard time buying $4.57-a-gallon gasoline, and who are losing their jobs because of the high cost of energy.
The solution? It’s easy. Drill for more oil. No, wait, that’s bad for the environment. Build nuclear power plants. No, wait, that’s too dangerous. Build windmills. No, there isn’t sufficient transmission capacity to get the power from where the wind blows to where the people live. Solar? Too expensive to produce enough power at present. Biofuels? Ugh, at present their water consumption and transportation costs are too high and their energy output too low. In addition, growing corn for ethanol has contributed to rising food prices. Hydrogen? Not ready yet.
Hmm. I know, just conserve more. Come on, America, you can do it. Walk to work. No, wait, most of us live too far away from our jobs to do that. Rapid transit? Nope. Rapid transit in this country only serves a fraction of the population. It may be great for big cities, but there are a whole lot of us who don’t live in big cities.
Damn. This is a complicated issue, and it’s one that politicians seem to enjoy arguing about more than they do solving.
Quality professionals face complicated issues all the time. For example, an audit reveals a nonconformity that requires root cause analysis and corrective action. Why can’t we apply these tools to the current energy shortage? Sure, it’s a big problem with countless variables, but many of our readers face problems with countless variables. Imagine the quality folks at Boeing who have to deal with products that have thousands of parts, hundreds of miles of wires, and hundreds of suppliers. Despite some development pains with its new 787 Dreamliner, Boeing manages to produce high-quality aircraft.
What about Disney? Its quality people have to deal with theme parks that have millions of customers; thousands of employees; and highly diverse computerized attractions, performances, shops, and restaurants. Yet it manages to ensure a high-quality product.
Imagine what would happen in your organization if management argued about identifying the root cause of a problem and taking corrective action. Nothing would get done. Well, that’s exactly what’s happening with our current energy crisis. Nothing is getting done because we are leaving it to the politicians—the senior managers—to do the job. Does senior management take on root cause analysis and corrective action in your organization? I doubt it. It’s people like you who tackle these issues. Of course, senior management sets the direction and the tone.
We’re missing leadership in this country on this vital issue. In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave the country a clear mandate: Send a man to the moon and return him safely home. Back in 1961 sending a man to the moon in less than 10 years seemed impossible, yet we did it in July, 1969.
Yesterday, Al Gore challenged America to produce 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.
Honestly, I am no fan of Al Gore’s, and I would like to see a lot more data on global warming, but at least he is challenging us to move in the right direction.
There’s very little good about our dependence on oil. “We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet,” Gore says. “Every bit of that’s got to change.”
Even die-hard, old-school oil men are beginning to see the light. T. Boone Pickens has proposed a solution based on wind power and natural gas. Check out www.pickensplan.com for more info.
I don’t have the answer, but I want the bickering to stop. I want action taken that makes sense for the nation and the planet in the long term. You can affect these choices. Let your politicians know that you’re tired of the fighting and you’re ready for them to take action.
By the way, I do think that all those solutions I mentioned above—solar, wind, more drilling, rapid transit, biofuels, hydrogen—will be the answer. We just have to find the right combination and let the market, not the politicians, decide what’s best for America.
How is the energy crisis affecting you and your organization? What are you doing and what are you being asked to do at work that will make a difference in energy consumption? Post your thoughts at www.qualitycurmudgeon.com.