Fully Informed Markets

Dear Ed,

Today I received my latest issue of the Oil & Gas Journal, and as usual, I truly enjoyed reading your editorials.

This week’s editorial on Politics and fuel choice especially hit a point with me as you noted, “Energy choices are best left to free markets, fully informed.”

This issue has been the primary goal of the Energy Literacy Project and the many similar efforts that are behind the Public Energy Literacy Initiative (PELI). Here our industry and society must come to grips with the definition of the “market” and what constitutes the concept of “fully informed”.

The free market is not only those who directly participate with their own dollars, but all of society, as everyone must consume energy. If we ignore or neglect this Man-on-the-Street, we do so at our own peril, because it is he who will dictate energy policy and all of its ramifications.

The real crux of the matter is confronting the question, is having an informed, energy literate consumer base worthwhile? If that answer is yes, then the next question is, whose job is it to teach the public about the role energy plays in their daily lives?

It is all well and good to see this statement in print once again. But what are we, the energy industry, going to do about it? We can all point to the literally hundreds of programs that foist themselves off as energy education. Indeed, our industry is the deep pockets funding a great deal of these efforts. The various trade associations that represent all forms of energy also put out some very good yet appropriately focused material about their specific BTU. These programs are a great effort toward this goal. However, I do not think that any can say that “fully informed” has been achieved.

One observation that PELI has made is that there is no real effort at informing the public about BTUs. We do a great job on our particular form of BTUs, but where is the fundamental information about energy? Society is missing the prerequisite course in Energy Literacy 101 that they need to have to fully appreciate Oil & Gas 212, Coal 240, Wind and Solar 310, Nuclear 431, or even Energy policy 550.

Talk is cheap. Isn’t now the time to walk the walk and take it upon our selves to develop a truly “fully informed free market”? It is either that or let’s admit that society will always need our product and we will be able to pass along any cost that we may incur so that energy choices and their prices really do not matter after all.

PELI nor I dare to claim that we have the solution. However, we are trying to get our industry leaders to sit down and truly answer these questions. Who knows? If they did, we might see some better coordination and collaboration in existing programs and a real chance at having and informed, energy literate public.

Click here for more information about Confessions of an Energy Price Forecaster: A 12 Step Program to Enlightenment

Click here for John Tobin's full bio

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