The chief of General Motors (GM) last week urged President Obama to appoint a blue ribbon committee whose only goal would be to develop a 30-year energy policy plan for the United States.
GM CEO Dan Akerson, who was a luncheon speaker at IHS CERAWeek 2013 in Houston, said the high-level committee would help to ensure that the country would have a stable energy supply for the long-term.
“I believe the president should immediately appoint a blue ribbon commission to develop a 30-year energy policy framework with checkpoints every five years,” Akerson said. “The commission needs to include a broad cross-section of energy producers and energy consumers, and they should be given a straightforward charge: develop a plan to improve our standard of living by extending the duration of the natural gas and tight oil dividend for as long as possible.”
The country’s “standard of living means affordable energy with certainty of availability, cleaner air and water, lower carbon dioxide emissions, a significantly lower trade deficit and balanced budgets.”
Every president since Richard Nixon has called for the United States to end its reliance on foreign oil, noted the auto industry chief.
“But none of it amounted to a cohesive, long-term national energy policy. We were reactive, lurching from crisis to crisis. And before you knew it, we were all wearing sweaters and driving 55 mph,” he said, referring to President Carter’s plan to deal with an oil embargo in the late 1970s. “To be sure, we have made progress. For example, the energy intensity of the U.S. economy declined 21% between 1980 and 2011. However, no president has been able balance supply and demand.”
The auto industry “rightfully should play a central role” in helping to develop U.S. energy policies “because light-duty vehicles account for about 60% of total transportation energy usage” in the country, he said.
Congress has often talked about the need for an energy policy. In his State of the Union address in February President Obama called for reforms to “control our own energy future.”
It’s time to seize the day, said Akerson. “Our leaders have been presented with an historic opportunity to create a national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance. The pillars of such a plan must include energy diversity, so we do not become dependent on any one fuel or energy source. In other words, we must continue to develop all forms of domestic energy, including renewables.”
The country has nothing to lose by trying, he said.
“What could be accomplished if the oil, gas and mining industries, renewable energy companies, utilities, labor groups, and producers of consumer durable goods like GM worked together to negotiate the necessary trade-offs and emerged with clear targets and a timeline to advance our national energy agenda?”
Like their peers, GM engineers are working to reduce vehicle weights to improve fuel efficiencies, with a target of up to 15%, said Akerson. The manufacturer doesn’t plan to stop making commercially popular V-8 engines, but it is working on fuel-saving technologies.
Akerson also praised compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fuel source “because I think it represents a huge and largely untapped opportunity for commercial fleets and long-haul truckers to save money and contribute to cleaner air.” For example, “a typical 5,000-vehicle light-duty fleet could save $10 million or more annually by switching to CNG.”
GM has joined others in the auto industry by recently adding three-quarter-ton bifuel pickups and dedicated CNG-fueled vans to its U.S. lineup (see related story).
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