What now?

Alex Nabaum

Alex Nabaum

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Energy matters
Jim McNerney ’71


The order of President-elect Obama's announcements of his key cabinet nominees reveals his view of the most pressing matters facing the United States: the economy, national security, and energy/environmental issues. Others skillfully explain in these pages the importance of stabilizing our financial markets and ensuring our national security, so I will focus on energy issues -- specifically the urgent need for the president-elect to formulate a comprehensive, coherent national energy policy.

Establishing and executing a national energy policy is very much related to both our economic health and our national security, and it is of growing importance given the recent volatility of oil prices and ongoing concerns about climate change. We mustn't let the recent drop in oil prices lull us into complacency. We need an energy policy that includes provisions for improving energy efficiency and conservation, expands domestic energy exploration and production, and develops a wide range of viable alternative energy sources -- from greater use of nuclear power to wind, solar, and sustainable biofuels. In short, we need a concentrated national effort to develop and encourage the use of alternative ways to fuel our autos, our airplanes, and our buildings.

One of the most important aspects of any energy policy is that it be comprehensive. To cite the aerospace industry as an example, we are simultaneously developing aircraft that are significantly more fuel-efficient than today's fleet, partnering with other companies to improve the safety and efficiency of the global air traffic control system, and supporting ongoing efforts to develop biofuels based on nonfood crops to run our airplanes. At the same time, companies everywhere need to make sure their facilities are as energy-efficient as possible, because growth must be sustainable for the long haul.

Any one of these items alone will not make a significant dent in our industry's energy use and environmental impact, but adding together all the components of a comprehensive approach will bring tremendous benefits to our environment, the United States, and the world.


Jim McNerney ’71 is chair, president, and CEO of the Boeing Company, the world's leading aerospace company and the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners and military aircraft.