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Russia, Hero of the Green Revolution

GreenPrint commissioned an interesting survey that says 64% of Americans are willing to pay more for sustainable products. “Willing to pay more” (amount unspecified) is one thing, but how does this fit with current increases in energy prices? A side effect of higher prices will be more energy efficiency, good for the environment and sustainability.

There are a lot of parallels between now and the 1970s when Jimmy Carter was president. The current energy crisis was caused by countries wanting to punish Russia. At that time, the energy crisis was triggered by Arab oil exporting countries wanting to punish countries that helped Israel.

When President Carter spoke to the public in 1977, he called the energy crisis the “moral equivalent of war”.  There were mandates to conserve energy. Speed was restricted to 55 MPH on highways (Slower driving saves energy).  Public and commercial buildings had temperature regulations for energy conservation.

In the winter of 1977, there were concerns about having adequate heating gas. Frank Rizzo, Mayor of Philadelphia, required non-essential businesses to shut down. We owned the Riverfront Restaurant and Dinner theatre in Philadelphia at the time, and it was awful to close the restaurant Saturday night. The high cost of energy at that time gave the public strong motivation for energy savings and self-sufficiency. There was movement toward smaller cars, which petered out and reversed itself after fracking cheapened gas prices.

Leaders today are not calling for thermostat mandates or freeway speed limits- yet.  It makes me admire Jimmy Carter for his all-in approach to energy conservation. He was perhaps the least political of our presidents and he was a one term president because of it.

As in Carter’s time, economics will be the driver of progress in sustainable energy. Ford, for example, is all in on the F-150 lightning electric truck. I can imagine what it costs now to gas up an F-150 pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the US.  Ford must get ahead of the curve with electric power if the F-150 is going to continue to be the best-selling vehicle. NerdWallet calculates the cost to operate the electric Lightning as $2 per “gallon of gas” versus the current $5+/- gas pricing. To further support my energy economics theory, Ford is hiring 6,000 workers in the Midwest for production of electric vehicles.

In 2004, TABASFUNDING provided funding that helped a bartender purchase a pub in Levittown, Pennsylvania. The owner told me that when gas prices were up, his customers had less money to spend in the pub.

While no one is thanking Russia for boosting energy prices, there will be environmental benefits of higher costs. Jimmy Carter, by profession a scientist, was prescient in his understanding of our dependency on petroleum. Let’s hope environmental benefits are a silver lining to higher energy costs.



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