American Energy Policy Needs an Honest Discussion

07 September, 2022

By Robert J. (Bob) Gross

As an engineer and a small business owner, I am continuously surprised that the energy debate is being framed as an either-or, all-or-nothing proposition. All of our major technical advances as a civilization have occurred when energy has been inexpensive and plentiful. So, we need all hands on deck in improving our traditional and renewable energy sources. We can have both fossil fuels and green energy, and make all of them work for us.

I believe that we need to develop an energy policy that includes all solutions, including nuclear. One side of the political aisle needs to stop demonizing the fossil fuel industry and the other needs to stop claiming green energy is a pipedream. But for this to happen, rhetoric and policy need to change at the top of the pollical pyramid. The executive branch can’t on one hand make it harder for the energy industry to operate, by rejecting pipeline permits, reducing drilling opportunities, increasing regulations, and promising to literally put the industry out of business in a few years, and then, on the other hand, blame those same energy companies when they can’t create enough power to heat/cool our homes and power our electric vehicles.

With that said, we should also embrace some of the newer technologies – understanding that they need time to develop and perfect. I have a brand new Mustang Mach-e electric vehicle, and I love it, but in no way is there a current infrastructure to support it and for everyone to have one tomorrow. That infrastructure is likely a decade away even if we make it a priority. I am hoping to have a solar farm installed on our building later this year/early next year if we can get the components. In no way can it take over completely supplying my company’s energy needs. Energy storage devices on the scale needed here are neither available nor technically affordable at the moment. We then, also need traditional resources!

We should absolutely have a thoughtful, open, and honest debate about our long-term energy horizon. However, in the short and medium term, we must keep in mind that these policy decisions have real-world, real-people, impacts. Energy prices impact everything. Shipping costs, manufacturing costs, employee commuter costs, heating and cooling costs, the cost to fly, the cost of food production…everything!

A national energy policy that has real solutions to bring down energy costs immediately is critical. Let us engineers work on and design future solutions. We need to encourage energy companies to expand and explore, not punish and threaten them. We need to lift unnecessary regulations on energy companies and welcome the development of our energy supplies. The permitting process for exploration needs to be streamlined and more energy infrastructure needs to be built for both fossil fuels and renewable technologies. Lastly, we should be encouraging companies to invest some of their precious capital in the energy markets – all of them – and not by singling out and demonizing specific industries.

We can and must bring down the price of energy, but it will take all of us being honest and using some common sense. I hope our politicians can put our nation’s people and employers ahead of their political rhetoric and radial agendas. As I said at the start, when energy has been inexpensive and plentiful, our society has grown and prospered.

Robert J. (Bob) Gross is both an electrical/power engineer and the founder/visionary of Gross Automation, LLC based in Brookfield, WI. Gross Automation received the Governor’s Export Achievement Award in 2020 from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and was named a finalist in 2021 for MMAC’s Focus on the Future recognition for their work in developing smart cities.