Americans are struggling with paying higher prices at the pump. Regular unleaded could be over $4.00 a gallon by summer. Such rises in fuel costs are already affecting food costs and will undoubtly shrink summer vacation travel.
Politicians, as usual, are scrambling to show how much they are concerned about higher gas prices and their impact on average Americans. They are using this “gas crisis” to unearth and promote a wide array of ideological stock answers. Liberals want to investigate and tax oil company executives; conservatives want to drill in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Neither will solve our nation’s short-term or long-term energy needs.
America is facing the historic expansion of the global economy. The fall of the Soviet Empire and the rise of the information age put two hundred national economies in play. This is the “flat earth” written about over the last decade. People in emerging economies all aspire to have the same consumer goods and lifestyles as America and other major western economies. That means cars, appliances, and electronics. These all require energy. More cars mean gasoline is going to continue to be used by more and more automobiles in more and more countries. Competition for consumption means a permanent rise in prices, both worldwide and in America.
America’s drivers shifting to bio fuels or hydrogen are years away. However, there is a more immediate, as well as long-term solution - teleworking. According the a report just released by the AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association) 1.35 billion gallons of fuel worth $4.5 billion at current prices of $3.33 per gallon could be saved if everyone with the potential to telework did so just 1.6 days per week. The Environmental Protection Agency calculates that this much saved fuel would prevent 26 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, only 24 million, or 16.3 percent, of the 147 million professionals in America are teleworking more than a few days a month. The rest are not teleworking at all!
Teleworking, or telecommuting, has been underutilized since the dawn of the information age. 21st Century managers and business owners, instead of embracing telework, have held onto 1950’s “command & control” management dogma. This nearly sixty-year-old mindset states that workers can only be productive if they are hunched over their desks. Another part of this mindset is that you, as a boss, are only in control if you can watch these workers being hunched over their desks.
The result of this ancient management approach is that millions of people jump into their cars and fight rush hour traffic just to sit in front of computers and make telephone calls. They could do this from their home, but most bosses refuse to move into the 21st Century. This mindset is also focuses on “activity” instead of “results”, thereby crippling the productivity of the American economy.
The Congress continues to promote teleworking legislation related to government employees, but it has not provided effective tax incentives to private employers. Teleworking would solve many issues regarding Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act compliance, family and medical leave, the multiple time zones of the global economy, and the need for more highways. It is time for politicians to break free from stock ideological answers and find ways to move managers and business owners into the 21st Century. Our fuel bills and our lungs will both get a break when they do…