April 25, 2020

Do You Take It For Granted? Why Energy Policy Matters to Your Health, Safety, and Livelihood - with Tom Pyle [Ep. 16]

Do You Take It For Granted? Why Energy Policy Matters to Your Health, Safety, and Livelihood - with Tom Pyle [Ep. 16]

Do you expect lights to turn on when you flip the switch, gas stations to have enough fuel to fill your tank, fresh water to run from your faucets, and grocery stores to have the food you need?  If so, you will want to listen as Linda interviews Tom Pyle, President of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and the American Energy Alliance (AEA).  

You will discover the importance of energy policies that allow us to be economically prosperous and physically safe and healthy.  As Americans, we depend on a reliable, secure energy grid for our health, safety, and livelihoods. Ideas have consequences and policy matters. Don’t take energy for granted.  Listen today! 

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Linda: Welcome and thank you for joining us for this episode which I'm recording in April 2020 amidst the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis. Each day, we're seeing how public policy affects our daily life, as we have experienced quarantines, social distancing, supply chain disruptions, empty store shelves, and business closures. 

In addition to the health concerns we all share amidst this pandemic, we have financial concerns and there are new economic realities we all must face. As we have endured this crisis, there are things we have depended on for our health and survival. As consumers have clamored for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, they may not have even given thought to an invisible yet essential need we all have. And that need is energy. 

Our hospitals run 24/7. Our delivery and supply chains must have energy to fulfill demands. Manufacturers need reliable energy to provide continuous production of facemask, gowns, and ventilators. Our farmers need reliable energy to harvest and process our food. Our homes need reliable energy, especially as so many of us are now working and schooling from home. Even our water supply is dependent on reliable energy. Energy policy affects us all.

And with me today to discuss this important issue, is my friend, Tom Pyle. Welcome Tom.

Tom: Well, thank you so much, Linda. It's great to see you via Zoom. It's good to see a friendly face in all of this. We've been having lots of virtual happy hours with our friends and family over these past few weeks.

Linda: That's great. Yes, we've been having family game nights with kids around the country too through Zoom. So, it's been great. And I'll let our listeners be reminded that the internet is dependent on reliable energy. So, our topic today is extremely important. 

Tom is the President of the Institute for Energy Research, and he also serves as the President for the American Energy Alliance. Both are nonprofit organizations based in Washington DC. The Institute for Energy Research is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulations of global energy markets. IER, as it is known, maintains that freely functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today's global energy and environmental challenges, and as such are critical to the well-being of individuals and society. 

The American Energy Alliance is a nonprofit advocacy group that fights for affordable, abundant, and reliable energy for American consumers and businesses. Tom, we applaud you for your leadership in both of these organizations, and I'd like you to share with our listeners a little bit about your own background and how you came to be involved in the energy industry and in energy education and advocacy. 

Tom: Great. Happy to. Well, I actually have been in Washington way, way longer than I thought I ever would be. I came out to DC while I was in college, and I did an internship for the Governor of the State of California, working on Natural Resources, Energy, and Environmental Policy. And it's really been pretty much all of that ever since. I had the privilege of working on Capitol Hill for about 10 years under various members and then finally with one of the leaders in the House of Representatives. From there, I began doing government affairs work for a major integrated manufacturing company, who also refined that energy that we’re talking about. 

And then, I did my own thing for a while. I ran my own business for a number of years. And IER became a client and I fell in love with the organization. They were in line to really revamp their organization, move their headquarters to Washington from Houston, because of all the activity around this issue at the federal level. I ended up taking over, so to speak, the organization about 12 years ago. Since then, we have been involved in a lot of the substantive policy issues both in Washington DC and in the states for a number of years and our [unintelligible [00:05:39], you mentioned the advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance.

We've got hundreds of thousands of activists on our social media networks who we give the tools to understand these complicated issues, cut through the noise and a lot of the mistruths, and then finally, empower them to effectively participate in the political process because at the end of the day, if we aren't engaging about the importance of these resources, about the need for our business, our domestic industry to be vibrant to provide those resources for us, we wouldn't be faring as well in a situation like this. That's the fact of the matter.

So, I'm very proud of this organization. We have a great talented core of really smart economists and analysts. I'm living my best life in spite of all of us being sheltered right now, Linda.

Linda: Well, that's great. And I think I got to know you shortly after you started with IER, I think it's been 10, 12 years we've known each other [crosstalk] as we've both shared our hope for American energy independence and our desire to see the free market really help American energy to thrive. I just really appreciate your work there and what you've done It's been a pleasure to work with you on various occasions, and with your talented team. I know that even though we have not worked necessarily with the same thing in terms of-- I've consulted a lot with nuclear energy organizations, but we have seen how nuclear energy and the oil and gas industry, how they're such a complement, and how we need to have all these sources of clean energy to provide a very great, reliable energy base, which we don't always find in the more popular and, shall I say, politicized renewables that are a part of the energy sector but not as reliable as the ones.

Do you want to talk about reliability a little bit on how hospitals need it, water supply, the internet? We all need this solid reliable energy base.

Tom: Yeah, absolutely. The bottom line is this, in any economy, the two inputs to all of the products, all of the services, the infrastructure that we rely on, we need affordable energy. It’s energy and labor that are the input cost to all these products. In the United States, we don't compete with the rest of the world necessarily with respect to labor. Labor is cheaper in a lot of other places, which is why we've seen a lot of manufacturing outflow into other countries. But we have been fortunate to have a reliable, steady, 24/7, always-on energy system in this country that has been built over the years. And in the past 10 years or 12 years or so, we have seen an explosion of production of natural gas and more oil production in this country.

For years and years and years, all the way back to the early 70s, politicians and policymakers said, “Look, we got to get off of these resources because we're using a lot of them, but we're running out of them and we don't produce them here at home.” But that changed about 10, 12 years ago with the advancement of some technologies, mainly one called horizontal drilling, combined with an old technology called hydraulic fracturing, where we're taking the seams of oil that are sort of veins and layers of deep, deep, deep rock, and with amazing precision, we're able to pull those resources out of the ground and utilize them to the point where we now are the largest producer of both oil and natural gas in the world. We have gone from a net importer just 10 years ago to a net exporter.

One thing that former Secretary Perry of the Department of Energy said was, “We're exporting freedom,” and I agree with him. We are producing natural gas and we're exporting it in the form of what's called liquefied natural gas. We're sending it to places where they didn't have choices before. They were victim to specific suppliers, namely Vladimir Putin and Russia, for example. Now in countries in Eastern Europe, we are giving them choices and forcing Russian gas to be more competitive, not to squeeze these countries. So, itt's benefiting us here at home. It's benefiting us abroad. The reliability piece on the electricity side is critical, especially in times like this. Imagine if the electricity were spotty in these hospitals, [crosstalk] imagine—

Linda: Crisis upon crisis.

Tom: Absolutely. Imagine if we weren't able to utilize the internet, which of course you need power. You need power for that. We've got my three kids at home, homeschooling, they're on the Zooms all day long and we're here doing the same thing. The ability for us to always know that when we flip on the switch, the electricity will be there as critical. And that means we need a diversification of energy sources, not just two sources or not just politically preferred sources of energy. We need all sorts of energy from all different types working together to keep the lights on, to keep the electrons moving through the transmission lines and down into our homes and our hospitals.

That’s our mission, is to ensure that we have abundant and affordable reliable energy and access to that, both as a consumer and as an industry.

Linda: Well, you brought up affordable as well and when we have it in abundance and we have this domestic ability to be independent in our energy production, it allows us to have more affordability for businesses and consumers. And that reliability that you mentioned is so important. As we talked before about how I've consulted with eGeneration Foundation and learned so much about the nuclear energy industry, I learned so much about the oil and gas industry as well and how these industries complement each other to keep a stable grid.

The stability of the grid is so important. When one thing goes up, one goes down, you've got this ability to ramp up and ramp down quickly, depending on what the consumer need is. I think we've been able to avoid the brownouts or blackouts. I mean we've seen it in some states, we've seen it in some situations, but when I think about years when I was younger and you saw so much more of this, what you attribute to the fact that our energy is so much more reliable, so much more affordable, and available to all sectors of our society. And as you say, as we're able to share it with others in the world who are less fortunate.

Tom: Yeah, look, nuclear, for example, if you're worried about emissions, it’s emission-free.

Linda: It’s carbon-free, it's safe now too, the small modular reactors. It's amazing.

Tom: There's legitimate-- we all want a clean environment and we all want to leave the place better for our children and grandchildren than we had it. And that's not a question. The question is, what do we have to sacrifice for that? And we don't. If you look, for example, in the last 10 years with the explosion of natural gas production in this country, we've been able to replace coal-generated electricity is still an important part of the mix. But we've been able to replace some of that with natural gas because we have so much. That is reduced our emissions. So, we've got more energy, more reliable energy, and yet a cleaner environment at the exact same time. And that's what we need. We need both of those things.

Linda: Yes. Before the interview, we were talking just a little bit about how you would differentiate America in the sense of our energy production and why we have such an advantage because of the foundations and the freedoms that we share as Americans through our constitution, through our liberty that is provided to us really from our founding fathers and those who have legislated according to the Constitution. That has really helped us to have this energy independence and energy freedom. So, could you share a little bit about that?

Tom: Yeah, it really goes back to our foundational principles. One, I'll give you an example. There what's called shale resources, these seams I mentioned, all over the world. They're in Israel, they're in Jordan, they're in Eastern Europe, London, France, they're all over the place. The main difference, however, is, in most other places around the world, private property owners, we, us, we own the subsurface of our land. And that is a result of our system. Our system that our Founding Fathers set for us. If we didn't own the subsurface, what incentive would property owners have to actually lease these lands to oil and gas producers or wind producers or solar or whatever? The fact of the matter is that because the companies produce-- they lease these lands from property owners, the property owners have skin in the game. They get paid to allow this activity to take place on their land.

Other countries could be producing at the level that we are. The difference is there's no incentive and that is a direct result of our system. Our system of government and common law. But take it beyond our borders, our free-market system-- we don't have a state-owned oil company like Venezuela or Saudi Arabia, and a quasi-state-owned oil company or gas company like in Russia. We don't peddle petrodollars, I call them. A lot of these hostile regimes, they use their oil resources to fund nefarious activities that you can akin to say terrorism for example, or to hold Eastern European countries who don't have access to gas other than say Russia's. Almost hostage. You know the long history of Eastern Europe and under Soviet occupation.

In some ways, it's not that much different when they have a gun to your head and say, “If you don't cooperate with us politically, we'll turn the gas line off.” So, we can export those liquefied natural gas resources to other countries. Look at the Baltic States, for example, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia. They liberalized their markets. They sold their gas companies. I think they might have one, I think Lithuania still has one, but they've largely sold off their interest to the private sector. They built what's called an LNG terminal off their shore, which allows this liquefied gas to come online. And then they take it and they put it back into a gas form, and then they use it for domestic uses and everything. That's just happened in a few short years.

Russia is no longer their biggest supplier and also what they say is, with Russian gas, there's competition. There's competitive prices only when there's competition. Suddenly, the Russian gas that they're buying was a lot cheaper than say, a country like Bulgaria who still hasn't imported any LNG. They're paying way more for their gas from Gazprom from Russia than Lithuania. So, as you can see, we're making people in other countries more free, because of our free-market system. We're forcing other countries, in essence, to liberalize and free up their economies as well. It's a beautiful thing.

Linda: It is. And I've often said in these podcasts, and I hold to it that, a strong America makes for a stronger world. And a free America makes for a freer world. Whether it's energy independence or economic independence, whatever, when America is strong and free, we can help the entire world.

What would you say to those people, I'm sure there might be some listening today, those people who believe that oil and gas are horrible for the environment that we need the Green New Deal. This podcast, I don't really like it to be partisan in a sense, but we can debate policy issues very, very clearly. And I do feel that this needs to be addressed because a lot of people don't understand the implications of policy like the Green New Deal or other so-called environmentally friendly or perceived to be environmentally friendly policy. Could you address that and maybe speak to some of those concerns that people have about our environment?

Tom: First of all, energy should not be partisan. 

Linda: Agreed. 

Tom: There should not be a partisan divide over affordable, reliable energy. Affordable energy helps poor people. The poorest among us pay the highest percentage of their income on energy. If you think about it, it makes sense. If you make less money-- we all have to fill our tanks. We all have to pay our utility bills. We all have to get around. If we're not-- the lowest economic ladder, the folks who are in that sector pay about 30% of their monthly bills just on their basic energy and electricity needs. And so we want to keep that price low for everybody. It makes total sense. It keeps our products affordable, it helps our farmers, it helps everybody. 

And to me, the Green New Deal is not about a cleaner environment. To me, it's about control, and who makes those decisions about what energy sources that we can use, what kind of cars we can drive, what kind of manufacturing we can actually have in this country because if we don't have oil, and coal and gas, we can't make steel. We can't drive around, our heavy machinery, we can't build anything in this country. Skyscrapers don't build themselves. Agriculture, the ground doesn't till itself, you need heavy machines that run on diesel, for example. 

The Green New Deal policies are a packaging of a wish list for those who want the government to make those types of decisions and by the way, other types of decisions for us, versus us as a free market, as individuals, as entrepreneurs, as companies, as smaller forms of government, as states, as localities, making those decisions for ourselves. And so that's really what-- if you look at the overarching of the Green New Deal, that's what it's about. It's about choice and control, and who decides.

Linda: Exactly. And even before that became a popular term or a policy item that we're discussing, I can think about issues with loggers. Loggers not being allowed into forests and then the mismanagement of forests, which becomes another whole issue. I think of-- like the people who want to build windmills off the shores of Lake Erie, and what that would mean to all the other industries and things. There's all of these different ways that we can bring in energy, but when we do it in an affordable, reliable way that takes care of the environment overall and brings that mix that you talked about. I mean we're not just depending on one source. And we have different areas in our country where different types of energy are more available than others. Can you address that a little bit?

Tom: Yeah, I want to touch on what you said though, if you don't mind.

Linda: Absolutely, sure.  

Tom: When you talk about forest policy, for example. Policies, a lot of times have unintended consequences. If you want a healthy forest, for example, a lot of what you need to do is manage that forest. You have to thin it, you have to selectively harvest that forest. Otherwise, you build up fuel loads, all the dead and dying trees go on the ground. And then when there is a forest fire and there are always going to be forest fires, especially in places like California and other places in the West. That's the nature of that environment. They burn uncontrollably and then you have a wipeout, you lose the wildlife, you're not getting any benefits from those trees if they're burning up. 

And by the way, you're harming people because like it or not, people are living, encroaching in those areas, more people are living in those areas. So, this is why paying attention to policy, paying attention to what our lawmakers are doing or what they stand for, is so critical for everybody. And full circle to your podcast, this is also why it's incumbent upon employers to be communicating with their employees about the types of things that impact their business, the types of policies that impact their business, the types of political promises, campaign promises that could impact their businesses and empower those employees to better understand how politics and policy impacts their business, and also to be able to participate in and engage their communities and their local representatives because they all have consequences negative and positive.

And this idea that it's about the environment or energy, it's about oil or wind and solar, it's a false choice. If you look at the environment in this country, we have data from the EPA that shows that our air and our water is cleaner today than it was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago, we’re driving more-- there's higher population, our economy is moving faster, higher GDP as they call it, all of the indicators that the environmental communities say would lead to a worse environment and all of the data shows that we are actually living in a cleaner environment.

And that goes back to our system of government, our free market, the ability for our entrepreneurs and companies to innovate, to try new things, to do all of that and reap the reward for that if they're successful. And so it's not an either-or, it's an and also, but more importantly, we got to make sure that we're all educated and following these issues closely. Because as you can see, in this crisis, for example, certain municipalities that were banning plastic have waived those bans. In fact, they've gone even beyond that to say, you can't bring a reusable bag in the store. So, this war on plastic is actually a war on our health. Hopefully, when we get through this, these municipalities will see the errors in their ways and undo these bans.

Linda: I just want to touch back on a second. You expanded a little bit on the logging issue, and I'm so glad you touched on that because a lot of people think, “Oh my goodness, we shouldn't log.” And I don't think there's a logger out there who believes in clear-cutting or destroying forests. Most of the loggers and logging companies, that's their livelihood. So, they of course want to have the next wave of the generation of trees come in. But I know from some previous regulatory reform projects I've worked on, that not only do these mismanage forests, endanger wildlife, and individuals because they become fire hazards and wildlife get trapped in there and things, but as the loggers and the forest management people are not allowed to go into these forests, you mentioned nefarious activities. 

Well, in one situation, I know for sure that was where drug cartels found their home and it became a no man's land. Even law enforcement became very, very dangerous. It was very connected to drug cartels. This was in a little town in Northern Wisconsin. And we are sure that that's going on everywhere. As we look at these policies, and I know that that's a stretch of what we were talking about, but I did want to bring that up to the listeners, because you mentioned how policies have consequences and we have to look beyond what is the initial thought process, like everything can sound good on the surface, but what's the end result and ideas have consequences.

When we flesh out those ideas, what becomes that result. So, you talked about these ideas of bringing more independence with the shale and helping to share that with other countries. You talked about how we can teach and help people understand these issues at a more individual level so they can become the activists. And you talked about educating people in the workforce and through your organizations. I want to salute you and those who are trying so hard to help people understand why we need American energy independence, why we need to preserve American energy independence, and why we need to preserve our Constitution and our system of government so that we can protect, not only our energy, but our businesses, our innovation and as we think about this current crisis, our healthcare system. Can you touch on that a little bit? I know I just went off a little bit on from logging, to healthcare, hospital, but everything depends on energy [crosstalk]  

Tom: Well, they're all completely interdependent on energy, energy production.

Linda: They are.

Tom: The movement of energy in our pipeline system, transportation system. Everything that is made, everything that is moved, everything that is grown, it all depends on an energy supply. The way that coal, oil, and natural gas work in particular is, they're perfectly suited to provide a wallop of energy, but also, they're easily transported. You can move them around efficiently, affordably and safely. Yes, there are incidents. Of course, there are spills, of course, there are pipeline explosions, but the way that our system is set up, in part because of the safety and the regulations that we have in place, we can do it better and safer and cheaper here. A lot of our technology, in addition to our actual energy resources, is also exported around the world because we do it better here, safer here. We protect our workers here, more so than they do in other countries. That's not to chastise other countries. It's just to say, enough is enough when you have politicians or policies that are trying to deliberately make those resources more expensive to satisfy some political agenda of putting these companies out of business, for example, which was the stated goal of the President and the previous administration quite honestly. Because he preferred more control at the federal level and more control of who decides those resources. And he had his pet resource, pet preferences as well. 

Look, if you look at this current crisis, what aren't we worried about right now? We're not worried about brownouts. We're not worried about not having to meet electricity for hospitals, for our transportation system, for our truckers, for our rail, and FedExes and UPSes. They're delivering our groceries. They're delivering all the supplies we need to get our kids’ desk set up for homeschooling. They're doing it right now. They're taking care of us while we're asked to do our part and stay at home. And energy is inexorably linked to all of that. When we talk about plastics, we talk about sanitation. Plastics are derived from natural gas. Fertilizer is derived from natural gas. All of these essential building blocks to our manufacturing, to sterilization, refrigeration, we have to have electricity for that. 

Look, salute these people, salute these energy workers. They're our neighbors, they're in our communities. They're providing the resources, they're getting our groceries, the supply chains are moving because of these resources in this time of crisis. And so, thankfully, we're in the situation that we're in, that we are endowed by our Creator with bounty with these resources. And we have a system of government that is relatively free for individuals to pursue their interests, to help others pursue their interests. 

The system works well in this country. It is resilient, and it should stay the way it is. We shouldn't be using the government to sort of pick winners and losers amongst the choices of energy that we're blessed with.

Linda: Great points. I'd like to just add it to what you said. You said we should salute the energy workers amidst this pandemic. Across the world, people are saluting the healthcare workers. Of course, we do. The health care workers, the first responders, of course, we do. But they couldn't do their jobs without the people that keep the grid reliable. They can't go to work in a hospital if there's no electricity. They can't get to the hospital if they don't have gas in their car or they can't take the public transportation system. To all the energy workers out there, we say thank you, and we do salute you because you're helping to keep America running, and as you mentioned, things, simple things, like refrigeration, transporting produce and things. We have fresh food. We have the ability to have a healthy food supply or a safe food supply because we have energy, we have reliable energy, and not all countries have that. 

Tom: That's exactly right. It's actually so critical. The other thing is the environment is not suffering for this increase in production. The environment is doing fine, as I mentioned earlier that all the indicators are there. And if you look at, for example, people complain that this current administration pulled out of this Paris Agreement, that this global agreement where everyone pledged certain emission reductions for CO2. Well, the fact of the matter is, the United States is meeting and exceeding the targets that they had agreed on prior to pulling out of this agreement.

A lot of the countries in Europe that are chastising the United States for looking out for their specific economic interests, by not wishing to be a party to that agreement, are not meeting their targets. They're not on track to meet the goals that they set for themselves. It's not to say that they should be chastised as well. It's just to say that it doesn't require a global governance to have a clean environment. It doesn't require putting the energy-- A quick fact for you, 30 years ago, out of 100% of the total energy the world consumed, 80% of it came from coal, oil, and natural gas. Today, what do you think that number is?

Linda: I don't know. I should know.

Tom: Slightly less than 80%. About 79%.

Linda: Okay. Yeah, I thought it would be close too. 

Tom: Not to say prediction. You can't predict the future, but the projections for the use of coal, oil and natural gas 30 years from now, according to the Energy Information Administration at the Department of Energy is 80%. The point being is this, this stuff is built to last, it's here to stay. The reason that we use so much of it is because it is so effective at delivering fuel, at delivering electricity, at delivering the goods and the services that we need that flies us around the country in the world on our airplanes, it's just so important to our economy and our way of life, that the goal should not be to eliminate these resources. The goal is to constantly strive for ways to make us more efficient, and to use them more efficiently and to use them more cleanly. And that's really what our politicians should be focused on. 

They shouldn't be fighting against each other, whether we should use wind and solar, or oil and coal, or nuclear or not nuclear. They should say, “We need all of this energy. We need to do it better, smarter, more efficient.” That's what they should be fighting together for, not against each other.

Linda: I agree. I agree so much. Often, I quote Steve Moore in these podcasts, he said, “Regulations should be guardrails, not roadblocks”. And as we've talked about some proposed regulations or proposed limitations on energy production or the use of certain energy resources, we see roadblocks. And the guardrails, you mentioned how we have-- it's cleaner now than it's ever been. We can really produce energy and keep our environment safe using all these resources. And I mean that's a good role. I mean, I think sometimes people misinterpret or think that those of us who are more free-market minded when it comes to energy, they think we don't care about the environment. Of course, we do. But that same free market, that same opportunity is what gives us the innovation to produce better and more efficiently and more economically friendly.

Tom: The free market system has-- there's historical evidence. It's not a hunch, it's not a hint of mine or yours. The free market system has delivered more efficiently, more reliably, more cleanly than any other system of government or economic system that there is. A representative democracy combined with a free market is like the equivalent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for oil and gas producers. It's the ingredients that make the soup taste good. You look at production quotas and you look at the atrocities, the environmental atrocities that took place under the Soviet Union. Just look that close in our history to see the contrast between a planned economy and a free-market economic system. It's a win-win in a free-market system. A planned economy is a lose-lose. You get the shortages, inferior products and services. And you trash the environment at the exact same time. Oh, joy!

Linda: Right. And that impacts each individual and reduces their quality of life, or health and their healthcare.

Tom: Their life expectancy, their health, the quality of their lives. The difference between having to spend the bulk of their days foraging for food or fuel to cook their food. [crosstalk] There are still places in the world where there they still don't have electricity. And so what do they do?

Linda: [crosstalk] -in the world where they cook over dung.

Tom: That's absolutely right. They form cow patties, they dry them in the sun and use them to heat their homes and cook their food. It should not be the case in 2020. Fortunately, a lot of these countries are stepping up and they're working on those systems. Until every single person in the globe has access to reliable electricity, we haven't done enough. We have to do more.

Linda: We have to do more and export more. As we look to rebuild our economy that has been so affected by the Coronavirus crisis and this economic shutdown in a sense, what would you recommend that government leaders do in terms of the energy industry and how to help the energy industry and all the employees within the energy industry that have been so affected during this time of crisis? 

Tom: So first and foremost, we've got to smash this virus. We have got to get to the point where we start reopening our economy, whether it's sector-- it's a little bit at a time, or however our governors, however our states and the President handles that. We've got to get past the tipping point here because the single best thing that could happen for the producers, the oil and gas folks that are hurting because of this low price situation, remember, demand for these resources have gone down, in some cases by 50% because our government has asked us to basically stop doing things. And so the price of oil goes down, people aren't producing, there are layoffs, just like every other sector and every other small and medium-sized business. Access to liquidity through this program, this Paycheck Protection Program is important as well. But we’ve got to get demand moving-- once we start seeing the economy move again, some of that activity will help with that situation.

The next thing the government has to do is, I call it the Hippocratic Oath method of policymaking. Do no harm. Do not enact policies that will ultimately hurt the industry in the long run or that will take away the fundamental free-market system that we have. 

Linda: Well, and you say, hurt the industry, but honestly too, it is about hurting individuals because when we don't have this access to this free and affordable energy, it hurts individuals, it hurts families, it hurts everyone. I know that our time is coming to a close here pretty soon. You touched on a few but if you could give three reasons why it's critically important for employers in all sectors of our society to talk to their employees about how public policy affects their paychecks, how the foundations of our government need to be paid attention to, shall we say, in order to protect their paycheck and how would you explain that to employers?

Tom: Well, I want to be specific to the energy industry first because I think, with rare exception, employers engaging their employees about the public policy decisions that are being considered at the state and federal level and with respect to energy, particularly oil and gas and coal production, is critical. And the reason I say that is because there are, what I would call the more radical elements of the environmental community who want them to be out of work. They want to put these resources out of business. And there's nothing more critical to retaining your job and your employment and providing for your family than the job that you have that you like and enjoy and do very well. There are politicians unfortunately out there who are making it their campaign promises or are basing their political and policymaking legacy on destroying these industries. So, that in and of itself just should speak volumes as to why employers need to educate and engage their employees. 

Overall, when you talk about the Coronavirus and what happens-- I've seen this before, as I said, I've been in Washington for far too long. I've seen crisis legislating and unfortunately, the dark side of crisis legislating sometimes in fact has become a loss of our freedom, a loss of our liberties and our privacy. We have to guard against that. We want help from the government but it shouldn't come at the price of our freedoms, the Constitution, the liberties that we have as citizens of this great country. From a macro perspective, that's another reason why we have to have a firm grasp of our founding and what our Founding Fathers gave us in this amazing Constitution of ours and the Bill of Rights, and the system of government that we have where the President is not a king, the legislatures have a checks and balance system. All that is so critical, especially in times like this. Wven though we're nervous and even though we're hurting, and even though we might be thinking about more immediate needs, we've got to always have that in the back of our minds.

Linda: Right. Well, and I've told people too, that we shouldn't sacrifice our liberties for perceived safety or security, because we've seen through history that people who do that, their countries fall and you end up with fewer liberties and an environment and a country that is not safe and not secure. So, we need to really protect that. And I know when my-- this just kind of made me think of this, when one of my sons went to Iraq-- he's a marine. And when he was in Iraq, a lot of people talked to me about how we should never ever fight a war, we should never have any military engagement. And to them, I said, “There are things worse than war.” I am so thankful for those who have fought for our freedoms, and have fought for our freedoms economically as well as militarily and so we--

I just think that as a society, we have to wake up. We have to make sure our young people understand the Constitution and the constitutional principles that made this country great and strong because if we don't, it will not be long, we will lose our country possibly in our lifetime or definitely in the lifetime of the next generation. I thank you for standing up for constitutional principles and for freedom. Do you have another thought for employers-- I see your face, you've got a thought on your mind there. I’d like to--

Tom: No, we could talk for hours. I love this kind of stuff. I just agree. Freedom is not free. We have to fight for it. If we're ignorant about it, if we're succumbing to the allure of socialism, then we could lose it. “We are never more than one generation away,” as Ronald Reagan said. So, yeah, and you understand this because this is what you're building this program on, is employers, believe it or not, are a very important source of information for people. Employees want to know what they're thinking, what their bosses are thinking, what the company is thinking and how they're approaching things. It's not something that companies should shy away from. It's something they should embrace because everybody benefits from a vibrant energy industry in this country, the producers, the consumers, the supply chains, the hospitals, we're going to get through this in part because of the vibrancy of our electricity, grid, the choices that we have, the options, the mix, if you will. And also, because we do have these resources and we're blessed with them. We can move them around efficiently. None of that would be possible without the men and women themselves but also the system of government, system of economics that we live in. We need to protect it and cherish it and hold on to it dearly.

Linda: We do. And that comes down to education, which is one of the things I really try to do with Prosperity 101™ as my listeners know. The resources that I like to provide or any workshops I give, or these podcasts, it's about educating. It's about empowering. And I know the Institute for Energy Research really provides educational information for people. Could you give the website for IER please? 

Tom: Yeah, you can find us at americanenergyalliance.org or instituteforenergyresearch.org. And the great thing about that is, we want your email address so that we can give you some great stuff. If you log on to the website, you'll be able to sign up, and what you get is empowerment. You get education. We try to explain these complex issues and these policy matters in a way that we can understand, you can understand, I can understand, folks who don't really have a background in these issues can understand. 

And also, we give you the tools to participate in the process. We have a legislator scorecard, for example. Plug in your zip code and you'll be able to see how your representatives are voting on energy freedom issues. And you'll be able to write them and say, “Hey, I don't like that thing. I don't want this,” or, “Give me more of that.” We create the tools. We exist to create the tools to empower your listeners and your viewers to be better educated and to be able to have your voice heard in this amazing process of ours.

Linda: And I really appreciate that. And to the listeners, I do recommend you go to those websites and learn. You can see how your elected officials have voted. You can see their stand on things and you can get some information about what these different legislative agendas, what these bills and stuff actually mean to your life. So, I do recommend that. Education empowers. 

And just a little aside, I know that you touched a little bit on the fact that American Energy Alliance, you said it's a C4, right? I think some of our listeners may be confused. You and I, and many that we've worked with, we toss around terms like C3, C4, C6, whatever, and we know what we're talking about, but could you please clarify how a 501(c)(3) is an educational organization and a 501(c)(4) is basically an activist organization or an advocacy. 

Tom: Yeah, I apologize. 

Linda: No, that’s okay.

Tom: I try not to throw those things around. 

Linda: Yeah. We know it's one of those things we learned along the way, but for our listeners, they may not really understand what that means. And I'd really like to clarify for them.

Tom: Yeah. So, the institute is a charitable organization under the federal tax code, which means that all of our contributions are tax-deductible. And it is used for education, to analyze policies, analyze the impacts of those policies, on the markets, on the industry itself and on us, the folks, the consumers. It is also a tool for us to engage policymakers on a substantive level, not to lobby per se, not to sort of weigh in, say, “Do this,” or, “Don't do that,” but to say, “Look, here are the impacts of this potential policy.” Your listeners can contribute to the organization and will receive a tax-- it's is treated like the March of Dimes, for example, or any other charity. 

The advocacy organization is a different section of the tax code. That's the name C4 or 501(c)(4) and that is a differentiation in that it is not tax-deductible, but you can contribute. But the advantage to a 501(c)(4) is you can advocate. We can give you those tools to impact policy. We can give you the legislator scorecard. We can endorse candidates, for example and those kinds of things. We call it the brains and the brawn. IER is the brains of the organization and AEA is the brawn of the organization, and that's how we differentiate.

Linda: Okay, well, thank you for clarifying that. And just before we close, if you could give both websites again, please.

Tom: Yeah, absolutely. It's Instituteforenergyresearch.org and americanenergyalliance.org. 

Linda: Okay, well, thank you so much. Do you have any closing thoughts before we sign off for today?

Tom: No, I think we covered it. It was really wonderful to spend some time with you. Thank you for Prosperity 101™. It is so critical. It's such an important component. We all have jobs. We all report to somebody. And we look up to those employers, not only for the paycheck, but also for other important things. What is it that will make our businesses stronger? What can we do to have more employers? What can we do to grow our business? Policy matters, more so today than it ever has, unfortunately. Government has gotten bigger and gotten involved in more and more aspects of our life than our founders ever probably envisioned. We've got to pay attention to it. And your program is really empowering employers to help do that with their employees. So, thank you.

Linda: Oh, well, thank you. And thank you so much for spending time today with me and with our listeners. We wish you well and I hope that you'll be out of quarantine soon. Well, you're not really quarantine, but socially distanced isolation, shall we say? I know you've been ordering groceries for delivery and things and homeschooling your kids, which is a new experience, but takes a different kind of energy, right? [laughs] 

Tom: Absolutely. God bless them all. My kids have been amazing in this process. I couldn't be more proud of them and my wife. We're doing it. We're making it work. We're doing our part. We're staying home and we're trying to stay sane in the process.

Linda: Exactly. Well, thank you for what you do as President of both Institute for Energy Research and American Energy Alliance. And thank you for what you've shared with us today. Thank you so much.

Tom: My pleasure. Thank you.

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