I’m on the soapbox once again this month – I’m going to cover the need to become politically active. I’m not doing this because I have nothing else to comment upon (though some months tend to be more fruitful than others) but because Fuel Oil News’ Dateline news section contains another reminder of why this is not only important, but will become increasingly important as time moves onward.
The latest budget deal is out to keep the federal government running for the remainder of the year. The industry lost some ground on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but gained a bit on the funding of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is important for the financial oversight the industry has successfully fought for in the past few years.
A few issues ago I compared the budget process to rats fighting each other for survival, where in a Darwinian sense only the strongest will survive. For our industry, many of the programs under fire not only carry a financial cost, but posses a strong political or competitive angle (or both). If you can’t win on the floor of Congress, or in the courts or at the veto pen, then maybe you can defund.
Cuts will have to be made. Some of them will be painful to the industry. Some may very well be unavoidable or in the best interest of the country – and I’m sure we as an industry can live with those. But many will be political in nature or when given a choice of one cut vs. another named not on their merits, but on the strengths and weaknesses of the interests involved.
Our industry is not “big oil.” Nor can it expect 100 percent support from big oil on every, or perhaps many issues. For that matter big oil is not all that big compared to some of the industry’s opponents. But, it is an industry that can do big things in Washington.
The associations serving the industry are very good at what they do, but they are not unique in that regard. They have some PAC money, but not enough compared to, say, the financial industry or the natural gas concerns. What the associations need more of is you, and your ability to get out in your districts and meet your senators and representatives and explain how these issues impact you and the jobs you provide and the customers you serve.
So with spring finally arriving, set aside some time and get to work on your personal support of the industry. It’s not that easy, but not that hard either, and the dividends are clear.