Here We Go Again

August 8, 2003 - 08:16

Editor's Report

Two years ago, our industry was hit with the worst energy
crisis in recent memory. Growers counted themselves among the lucky if their
bills only doubled or tripled and knew they were blessed if their retail outlet
agreed to a non-recurring fuel surcharge to help offset the extraordinary
costs.

No doubt, 2001 was a bad year, but it might just be the tip
of the proverbial iceberg. That's right. In case you haven't heard, it looks
like we're heading toward another energy crisis this year, and if predictions
hold true, we might be on the verge of an attitude adjustment.

By some estimates, the United States is headed into an
energy crisis that will last 4-5 years and will make the 1970s crisis seem like
child's play. Remember the two-day-long lines for gas? What about the campy
song radio stations used to play? Well I do, and I don't want any part of a
repeat.

How Did It Happen?

After suffering through the hardships we saw two years ago,
I think the whole country should be asking how we got here again. Didn't anyone
in the government learn anything in 2001? Wasn't there a Congressional
investigation? Didn't some of the oil companies get their wrists slapped for
allowing the situation to happen and then taking advantage of it?

One thing's for sure, those "in the know," and
anyone else who took the time to forecast the inevitable, have been expecting
an oil crisis for more than 25 years. In the 1970s, during the height of what
had been the worst energy crisis to date, the Nixon administration decided that
our country's dependence on foreign energy sources held the blame for the
rampant shortage, and during his 1974 State of the Union address to Congress,
Nixon said, "At the end of this decade, in the year 1980, the United
States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need to
provide our jobs, to heat our homes and to keep our transportation
moving." OK, so Nixon was impeached. What about Jimmy Carter? Everyone
trusts a farmer. In 1979, Carter said "I am tonight setting a clear goal
for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation
will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never." We all know
what happened to that policy.

Old news, right? What about more recent policy directions?
The past three administrations have gotten more realistic about America's
dependence on foreign oil for energy. The discussion has shifted away from
eliminating foreign sources of oil to developing other national energy sources
as a supplement to mitigate price pressure. Pipelines from Alaska, biodiesel
fleets and hydrogen power have all been in the spotlight, and regardless of how
great these alternative sources look on paper, the reality is that none of them
are having an impact on the bottom line cost of heating a greenhouse.

What's Next?

I wish I could tell you what comes next. My research shows that
the current presidential administration will be just as powerless to stop the
coming energy crisis as you and I. So I don't know what we can do except get
ready and stay informed. On the former, contact your energy supplier, stockpile
fuel, explore alternative energy sources and prepare your vendors and
suppliers. On the later, take a look at our new column on the energy crisis,
page 12.

In this recurring column, associate editor Catherine Evans
will be bringing you the latest news, expert advice, success stories and
anything else she can find on the topic. Now, the column may not run every
month; we're not trying to create something from nothing, but in the months
where we find something you should know, we'll feature it on the last page of
the news, so get in the habit of looking for it. This is going to be a rough
winter, and a few words of wisdom might make all the difference.

About The Author

Bridget White is editorial director of GPN. She can be reached at (847) 391-1004 * bwhite@sgcmail.com

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