Rental Cars, Energy and the Transportation Value Chain
By Lee Broughton
As previously noted, I attended The Wall Street Journal’sECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara several weeks ago, where I led a luncheon roundtable discussion about “Urban Mobility and the Integration of Alternative Vehicle Technology.” The conference included many presenters, including Daniel Yergin, chairman of the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author. Yergin has followed up his bestseller, The Prize, with another provocative book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.
So it was no surprise that, a week after the ECO:nomics conference, Yergin’s work was noted in the Financial Times, highlighting his focus on new oil and gas exploration opportunities – and the emergence of a “new energy axis” from Canada, through North Dakota and South Texas, past French Guiana, to Brazil’s pre-salt fields. And this week a major car rental company announced its first compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle. Meanwhile, critics continue to express serious environmental concerns about techniques like shale gas extractions, particularly hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), which can contaminate water supplies.
These and other strong points of view make this passionate public-policy dialogue even more compelling and riveting, particularly because there are no easy solutions – only an almost endless number of opportunity costs that must be taken into account. With this in mind, Enterprise Holdings’ CEO, Andy Taylor, and I are headed back out to the West Coast next week for Fortune magazine’s 2012 Brainstorm GREEN conference. This time, Andy will be participating in a panel discussion about electric cars along with leaders from Honda, NRG Energy and BYD Co.
This topic is hardly a new one for Andy, who was named by Automotive Newsmagazine in 2011 as one of the “Electrifying 100”key players driving vehicle electrification. And last summer, he joined FedEx President and CEO Fred Smith at the National Summit on Energy Security in Washington, D.C., where business, military and government leaders convened to discuss the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
Andy’s point, then and now, remains the same: “When it comes to bringing alternative-powered vehicles to the mass market, the car rental industry is a critical link in the transportation value chain.” We are part of today’s problem – and, thus, we can and must be part of tomorrow’s solution.