Houston Mayor Bill White spoke at the Petroleum Club in Houston last week at a Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) appreciation day. The mayor is a good speaker – perhaps not surprising given that he’s a politician – and he said a number of things that I think bear repeating One of the subjects he addressed was the recent brouhaha in Washington that has at its center the Waxman-Markey bill. According to Mayor White, most of the recent debate on energy has been on one goal – limiting carbon emissions. Though that goal in and of itself is admirable, he said, it is inadequate alone. “If you want affordable domestic resources, you must keep your eye on three things.” 1. Increasing efficiency per mile traveled 2. Reducing electricity use per square feet occupied 3. Diversifying supply to include cleaner fuels Each of these three requires that choices be made, and if choices are to be successful, no choice made in one area can have negative repercussions in another. This seems to be a sensible statement. According to White, the problem is that “a lot of people don’t want to confront those choices head on.” Politicians, in general, don’t like to make hard choices, White said. That is one of the reasons that the Waxman-Markey bill, which recently was approved in the House of Representatives, is such an enormous document. “Every idea put in had to be qualified by exemptions,” he said. “If the House bill became law, the growth industry would be lawyers contesting cap and trade.” Many policies in the works right now miss the mark because, in the long run, they will be damaging to consumers. The fact is, Mayor White said, positive changes can be made that address not only the carbon emissions problem, but reduction in energy use. Good decisions also will move us in the direction of greater energy security. The caveat is that natural gas has to play a role. “We need to do more to elevate the role of natural gas,” White said. “I believe we need to be talking about how we can use that resource.” The primary argument in favor of gas is that the role of renewables today and the potential role in the near future is not as big as some people think. Natural gas will play a critical role in meeting peak energy demand in the power grid, the mayor said. “The problem with people setting policy is that they are not looking at the big picture.” Part of the problem is ignorance. “A lot of people don’t understand the business, and they don’t want to,” the mayor said in reference to oil and gas exploration and production. In short, “sound byte politics don’t take the nuts and bolts of ideas seriously.” The real problem with Mayor White’s statements last week is that not enough people heard them. There were only about 100 people at the luncheon. If his bid for the Senate is rewarded, though, a lot more people will hear his voice. If he continues to speak out for domestic oil and gas exploration and production, that might well be a good thing.