Is there a public perception problem then that energy companies are not doing enough?
People don't really understand. The energy industry is pretty high tech. It is an industry run by engineers and scientists. That's not what the public sees. I think the other thing the public doesn't really see, for understandable reasons, is the scale and complexity of the system that supplies this energy. It is not like introducing iPods or YouTube in that you can change things quickly. In a way I think the terrible hurricanes of 2005 demonstrated what people didn't understand: how vast and complicated is the energy system, including the energy complex in the Gulf of Mexico, when electricity doesn't work, refineries don't work, gasoline doesn't get delivered.
This scale of the thing is one of the least understood things of the whole picture and how interconnected we are with the global situation.
What about consumers? They want to consume the energy but they don't want the infrastructure.
People want the benefits of energy without understanding the investment that has to go with it. A good example is offshore drilling in U.S. The capabilities are so much greater than they were 30 years ago to drill in an environmentally sound way with a smaller footprint. Looking forward, the big frontier ahead is how you manage carbon.
Would major energy companies support a carbon tax?
I think as a country, including the energy companies, we recognize we are going to move to some kind of carbon management system. Is it going to be a cap system, a tax, or a combination of the two? That will be the debate over the next couple of years.
Is the infrastructure issue overlooked?
When we talk about energy security, we just talk about production or gasoline stations. You have to think about what goes on in between. The great lesson from the hurricanes of two years ago was the importance of the resiliency of our energy structure. Also, a more efficient transmission system allows you to more efficiently allocate your capital and decide what you build. The other thing is that there is a lot of focus on clean tech, renewables. It is now becoming a big business.
You talk about energy efficiency. How realistic is that?
I think it highly realistic. This is part of the genius of America - innovation, doing things smarter in terms of what we build, what we live in, what we drive. I think the price of energy is a message and the message today is be more efficient. To me that is the punch line.
You chaired a task force a decade ago. What were the lessons learned and what has been applied?
The lesson is that research and development is not something you turn on and off every few years. You need to be consistent and keep up the funding. Otherwise, you lose continuity and lose human capital. That means people.