Aug 8, 2003
Here We Go Again By Bridget White

Two years ago, our industry was hit with the worst energy crisis in recent memory. Growers counted themselves among the lucky if their bills only doubled or tripled and knew they were blessed if their retail outlet agreed to a non-recurring fuel surcharge to help offset the extraordinary costs.

No doubt, 2001 was a bad year, but it might just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. That’s right. In case you haven’t heard, it looks like we’re heading toward another energy crisis this year, and if predictions hold true, we might be on the verge of an attitude adjustment.

By some estimates, the United States is headed into an energy crisis that will last 4-5 years and will make the 1970s crisis seem like child’s play. Remember the two-day-long lines for gas? What about the campy song radio stations used to play? Well I do, and I don’t want any part of a repeat.

How Did It Happen?

After suffering through the hardships we saw two years ago, I think the whole country should be asking how we got here again. Didn’t anyone in the government learn anything in 2001? Wasn’t there a Congressional investigation? Didn’t some of the oil companies get their wrists slapped for allowing the situation to happen and then taking advantage of it?

One thing’s for sure, those “in the know,” and anyone else who took the time to forecast the inevitable, have been expecting an oil crisis for more than 25 years. In the 1970s, during the height of what had been the worst energy crisis to date, the Nixon administration decided that our country’s dependence on foreign energy sources held the blame for the rampant shortage, and during his 1974 State of the Union address to Congress, Nixon said, “At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to provide our jobs, to heat our homes and to keep our transportation moving.” OK, so Nixon was impeached. What about Jimmy Carter? Everyone trusts a farmer. In 1979, Carter said “I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 — never.” We all know what happened to that policy.

Old news, right? What about more recent policy directions? The past three administrations have gotten more realistic about America’s dependence on foreign oil for energy. The discussion has shifted away from eliminating foreign sources of oil to developing other national energy sources as a supplement to mitigate price pressure. Pipelines from Alaska, biodiesel fleets and hydrogen power have all been in the spotlight, and regardless of how great these alternative sources look on paper, the reality is that none of them are having an impact on the bottom line cost of heating a greenhouse.

What’s Next?

I wish I could tell you what comes next. My research shows that the current presidential administration will be just as powerless to stop the coming energy crisis as you and I. So I don’t know what we can do except get ready and stay informed. On the former, contact your energy supplier, stockpile fuel, explore alternative energy sources and prepare your vendors and suppliers. On the later, take a look at our new column on the energy crisis, page 12.

In this recurring column, associate editor Catherine Evans will be bringing you the latest news, expert advice, success stories and anything else she can find on the topic. Now, the column may not run every month; we’re not trying to create something from nothing, but in the months where we find something you should know, we’ll feature it on the last page of the news, so get in the habit of looking for it. This is going to be a rough winter, and a few words of wisdom might make all the difference.

Bridget White

Bridget White is editorial director of GPN. She can be reached at (847) 391-1004 * [email protected]

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GPN recognizes 40 industry professionals under the age of 40 who are helping to determine the future of the horticulture industry. These individuals are today’s movers and shakers who are already setting the pace for tomorrow.
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