iOS app Android app More

Mike Bonifer

Mike Bonifer

Posted: August 6, 2008 12:37 PM

It's the Energy, Dummy!


It is the energy generated by human beings, and not something found in the ground, the air, the sun or a reactor, that makes the difference between success and failure in most endeavors. Being president of the United States included.

No matter which candidate gets elected in November, more drilling is going to happen off American coastlines. ANWR will get drilled over the protests of ecologists and the porcupine caribou. Shale oil will get produced in Canada through agreements with Canada's western provinces that that have been in place for two decades. It's all inevitable. The wheels are already moving. No human being or government can stand in the way of all the Peterbuilts and Tatas supplying all the Wal-Marts of the world with cheap petroleum-based products and the people buying them. And woe be to any candidate who stands on the tracks of that train.

For sure the candidates will punt, pass and kick the subject of oil. It's all part of the game. We expect it. But the reality is that either candidate, if elected, will have about as much impact on oil prices as an Arizona Cardinal or a Chicago Bear does on the shape of the football used to play the game. Not much and only temporarily.

What will matter to the next administration, and should matter to voters, is the human energy each candidate can bring to the creation of an effective energy policy.

Whoever gets elected will have to deal with the fact that the U.S. cannot continue to consume 20% of the world's oil in an increasingly demanding global economy any more than Bostonians could keep burning whale blubber in the 1890s. It doesn't matter how much drilling we do. There's a limited supply of oil just like there was a limited population of whales. Learning to live with a smaller percentage of a diminishing oil supply is going to be a fact of life and politics. And for those of us not in the oil business, there's going to be some hurt involved. Sorry. True. No blubbering.

Moving the U.S. toward alternatives to oil without catastrophic economic and societal disruption in the next ten years will take a level of collaboration between government and business that is unprecedented in our history except perhaps for World Wars. This effort will make splitting the atom and putting a man on the moon look like high school science projects. The amount of human energy brought to bear on the problem must be massive, focused, fearless and highly intelligent.

Only one of the two candidates can generate the kind of focused and committed human energy it's going to take to solve the problem. This contrast in their energies is one of the simplest ways to explain to dummies the difference between the two.

One of the candidates generates the kind of energy you experience in the grill at a country club or the boardroom of a big company. It's insiders exchanging whispers. It's all hushed and suspicious and "Who are you with?" It's Ferragamo loafers and martinis up.

The other candidate generates the kind of energy you experience at a gospel revival or start-up company formed by you and your friends. It's all music and beach balls. It's rowdy and happy and "How are you, my brother?". It's flip-flops and flasks of Jack.

One candidate generates the kind of energy you see in morticians. It has a calming effect on the aggrieved. The other candidate generates the kind of energy you see in rockstars. It has folks howling in the streets after the performance.

One candidate generates the kind of energy your momma has when she cooks for the family at Thanksgiving. There is a lot going on. The other generates the kind of energy your uncle has after he's eaten that turkey dinner. He needs a nap.

One is the kind of obnoxious energy that tells people what to do, often for no other reason than to show that it can. The other is the kind of infectious energy that does what needs to be done without being told to do it.

One kind of energy can only build momentum by drafting off the energy of others, including his opponent's and various celebrities. The other kind of energy is a force unto itself, it generates its own celebrity. Others draft off it.

One energy expends itself on preserving what is, because things are good and it wants them to stay that way. The other energy expends itself on creating what can be, because no matter how good (or bad) things are, they can always get better.

One candidate generates the kind of energy it will take to solve the problem.

The other candidate generates the kind of energy that will make it worse.

Mike Bonifer is the author of GameChangers - Improvisation for Business in the Networked World. His website is www.gamechangers.com

Follow Mike Bonifer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Bonifer