What constitutes winning leadership? The answer that has come back from study after study is that whether it is in a family setting, in the workplace or in government it is that those who direct our activities are consistent in their behavior.
It seems to be an innate part of our nature that we like certainty. We wake up each morning expecting the sun to be there; we catch a regular train on our commute to work; we have our favorite spots to go for meals or certain special foods that we enjoy eating at home; we look forward to March Madness and the Super Bowl; we enjoy the feeling of festivity and friendship and warmth that comes from sharing the Holidays with our relatives and friends. Such is human nature – and as a member of that group – I share those feelings.
As I reflected on this I thought about the leadership that we have seen out of Washington, D. C. in recent years. I thought about this in terms of two separate but very important areas which affect all of us – the first being the omnibus healthcare legislation which is now being reviewed by the Supreme Court and the second, our energy policy.
On the surface and without engaging in a debate as to the delivery mechanisms, it would seem that a caring society would want to include as many if not all its members in a program to ensure their health and well-being. That is how President Obama’s healthcare plan has been presented to us and those who are supporters will find comfort in their belief that this is good legislation.
So for purposes of conversation, let’s accept that it is just that – good legislation and good policy. Its inclusiveness will reach out to those who currently are unable to purchase healthcare insurance – which should include a significant number of our financially poorer citizens. As a person who believes that helping others is both a personal responsibility as well as a societal obligation, I endorse the theory and presumed motivation behind this concept.
Now let’s look at the administration’s views on energy. I re-blogged a post yesterday by Green Mountain Scribes entitled “Out of Touch Obama”. This article makes a very strong case for the administration’s determination to see that energy prices increase significantly – in order to push us towards a more environmentally-friendly solution to develop clean fuels and sources for our energy needs. Again, I support that concept of reducing our carbon emissions – but let me share with you the reality off that quest.
Several years ago I investigated the possibility of installing solar panels on my house. I had already taken as many steps as I could to reduce my energy consumption – improving insulation and just turning things off. So I finally found a company that had the capability of installing solar panels on my home and eliminating any electric demands I would have to make on NV Energy – our local electric utility.
After the Federal and Nevada credits were applied, my net cost to totally solarize a modest-sized home was approximately $120,000. (As the market in housing had already started on its precipitous decline – I could have purchased two or perhaps three small houses here for that investment). So I reviewed the economics of this and ultimately decided that it would take me approximately 80 years to recover my solar investment – but I stood a far greater chance of being able to develop a rental income and perhaps make a profit on the sale of the alternative home investment if that were the route that I pursued. As it turned out, I did neither of these.
It is my understanding that with the improvement in the production and cost reduction in solar panels, three years later (and without benefit of government subsidies), I could now have that installation done for a cost of about $75,000. Based on my current electric usage that still would require about 50 years to recoup my investment. In other words, we are a very long way from getting the costs of environmentally-friendly solar panels down to where they are affordable for the average individual. And, of course, they have a limited geographical value because of the presence or absence of consistent sunlight.
But in the meanwhile, rising oil and gas prices have a very direct and immediate impact on all of us. As I drove from the dog park two weeks ago, I remember one day as I passed a 7-11 on my way home that the price at the pump was changed twice that day and again the following morning. (By changed I mean raised). So the current administration’s policy is having the effect of draining spendable dollars, vitally needed to get our economic recovery on track, and putting those dollars in their gas tanks so that those who still have jobs can get to work.
But there is a far more insidious consequence to all of this as it relates to the health of our citizenry. Rising prices for fossil fuels means rising costs for utility services.
I remember reading, during periods of extreme weather both hot and cold, about how many elderly people and young children died because they or their parents couldn’t afford to pay their utility bills and did without the benefits of heat or air conditioning. An increase in the price of these services will certainly mean that even more people should expect to succumb to this fate should we again experience extreme weather conditions which are apparently becoming more the norm than the exception.
As we work toward a viable renewable energy system (which by the most optimistic estimates will provide no more than ten percent of our needs), is it reasonable or moral to treat the most vulnerable members of our society as mere pawns, readily sacrificed for the ultimate greater good? This question is particularly important as it is these very people whom we purportedly seek to benefit in our strategy of expanding our healthcare system.
I for one would rest more comfortably if I felt that those who are making decisions that affect all of us were true leaders and made decisions which were consistent.