It’s pretty hard to imagine now but, someday, I suppose we’ll lose our appetite for news about the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The Coast Guard could be referring not just to the federal government’s response to the oil spreading rapidly through the Gulf of Mexico (and beyond!), but also to our insatiable demand for media coverage, when they predict we’ll be “dealing with this for the foreseeable future“. Enjoy hearing about environmental disasters while you brush your teeth in the a.m.? Good. The Weather Channel has you covered.
Yes, energy concerns have our attention. In a mid-May survey of 1,000 adults by the Pew Research Center, when asked to consider what issues are very important for Congress to act upon in the coming months, 67% of respondents identified “the country’s energy needs“. Of those respondents, 75% are Democrats and 61% are Republicans – a mandate in today’s political climate.
Of course, it could be that the polls merely reflect the relentless news coverage of the spill and that our priorities will drift with the slicks on the water. As in the sea, there are many undercurrents at play, just in the energy space. For sure, it’s a pocketbook issue; when petroleum, natural gas and electricity prices tremble, so do we. But not far beneath the surface, other major trends are apparent. The energy dilemma is about jobs, corporate and social responsibility, national security and public policy.
It’s also about public awareness and the acceptance of advances in technology. And some very smart folks with a track record in the technology community see a very, very big business opportunity. Venture capitalist John Doerr famously suggested that his recent energy investments are focused on “cars, coal, conservation and cattle“. Cattle? Could it be? Yes, HP Labs is exploring how to power sustainable data centers with cow manure.
Maybe it’s finally time to get beyond the superficial Sunday morning TV ads, PR campaigns and polls. After all, we can pass into law all the federal and state energy mandates we want, but we can’t achieve the goals they establish or collectively get to a better place without a dialogue exploring solutions that consumers can understand and act upon.
That’s if we have any energy left.