Former Shell exec predicts blackouts, gas lines

Monday, June 21, 2010
By Paul Martin

Elizabeth Souder

Americans are on the path toward blackouts and gas lines, and the federal government’s tools to prevent it are broken.

And John Hofmeister, the former Shell executive who made this prediction at a World Affairs Council breakfast on Friday, said he’s an optimist. Some of his energy industry friends expect worse, he said.

“Within a decade I predict the energy abyss looks like brownouts, blackouts and gas lines,” said Hofmeister. “Our federal government, when it comes to energy and the environment, is dysfunctional, it’s broken, and it’s unfixable in its current form.”

Hofmeister, the former chief executive of Shell Oil Co., is promoting his new book, Why We Hate the Oil Companies. He has also created a nonprofit called Citizens for Affordable Energy.

The Houston resident has a solution. He wants the U.S. government to get out of the energy business. He would shift oversight of energy and the environment to an independent agency, similar to the Federal Reserve.

He worries that the U.S. won’t have enough energy because of the way government restricts using various types of existing technology, such as oil, coal and nuclear power. But the U.S. hasn’t developed the alternative technologies to be able to replace fossil fuels.

A central agency could address issues of supply, technology, infrastructure and environment without getting tangled in the short-term political cycles.

“In a world of energy shortage, which we are becoming, we actually have more energy than we’ll ever need. Ever. Forever,” Hofmeister said. “We just need to decide which [type of energy] to use when.”

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