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Raymond J. Learsy

Raymond J. Learsy

Posted: July 3, 2008 06:18 AM

$4 Gasoline at the Aspen Ideas Festival



Once a year there is a remarkable gathering of people in Aspen from all disciplines in life and an occasional interloper. Leaders in Academia, Politics, Business, the Arts, and Science. The conversations, seminars, and lectures are pretty heady in a rarefied yet pointed and pragmatic way. It was here that I had the occasion to watch Charlie Rose interview a remarkable individual, the Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon. The interview will be televised so you will have a chance to drink it in its full flavor. It was remarkable, especially at this moment touching on so many issues impacting all of us from the rescue of Bear Stearns to ruminations on the current mortgage financing debacle.

Of course energy came up as an issue of paramount importance. Much concern expressed about the high price of oil and its impact on the economy. It was during this segment when Dimon in his engaging way asked this star spangled audience a seemingly innocuous question: "Who among you is upset with $4 plus gasoline?" -- not exactly a usual topic of conversation among this prominent gathering. Well, most hands went up. Dimon looked around the room with a degree of satisfaction. Hesitating for a moment he then with a twinkle in his eye pronounced (and I paraphrase), "Well you shouldn't be" [pause], "because its your fault, as it is the fault of every one of us. We knew 40 years ago that something needed to be done and yet we were too self-satisfied to make the hard choices, and now we are paying for our years of self-indulgence, for our years of tolerating inaction." This was not a group that is readily rendered mute, but there was a hushed silence and then spontaneously loud applause. So there we have it. There are many villains in this energy drama, but here for once was the chief perpetrator called to task. Accepting our own responsibility is the first real step to truly dealing with this issue, and never before have I seen it expressed so clearly and responded to with was such clarity of purpose.

An aside: It's good to be an interloper once in awhile.