WAGUESPACK: Carpool Conversation

Everyone has their own morning routine.

Most mornings, I drop the boys off at school on my way to work. I enjoy the fact that each morning we get a little car time before the hectic schedule of the day takes over for all of us. Sometimes we just shoot the breeze, other times we just listen to the radio and, yes, sometimes I have to referee silly arguments between the brothers. This carpool has become just as much a part of my morning routine as my first cup of coffee and it is hard for me to wake up without a good dose of it.

The other day while stopped at an intersection with two gas stations on opposite corners, my oldest son asked me why we usually stopped at the one gas station for gas when the one across the street sold gas two cents cheaper per gallon. To him it was a no brainer. Why would you go to the more expensive one when we could save money by going to the other one?

I told him there were other reasons besides price that convinced me to stop for gas at the first one each time. The reasons are all important to me, especially the fact it is much easier to pull in and out of traffic from this one and they have those hands free clips on the gas nozzle whereas at the other one you had to stand there and hold the pump the whole time. Not persuasive reasons to him, but for me, those are difference makers for where I am going to invest my gas-purchasing dollars.

This father-son chat about which gas station to use is similar to the policy discussion on mega-lawsuits and their impact on economic growth we are having as a state right now. Some of the talking heads, a few trial lawyers, and a handful of enviro-celebrities right now are arguing that price is all that matters. They, and my 10-year-old son, think cheap gas is the only thing that drives decisions. Nothing else matters. Oil and gas companies, manufacturers and anyone that services these industries have to come to Louisiana to invest their money no matter what we do or how we treat them because our cheap gas is just too good to pass up.

Others, present company included, argue that actually there are other factors that will go into that investment decision in today’s world economy. This includes our ability to provide a simple regulatory system, a trained workforce, and a legal climate that is fair, accessible, and able to separate hostage-note peddlers looking to shake down any deep pocket they can find from credible claimants looking for a reasonable solution to an environmental impact.

Just like there are countless gas stations on every corner fighting for that same customer, there are countless states and countries with cheap energy vying for the corporate investment and good-paying jobs that are beginning to ramp up again after a  five- year hibernation during the national recession. Part of the reason gas is so cheap right now is because you can find it almost anywhere thanks to shale discoveries and new technologies. Just look at a national map of shale gas reserves, and you quickly see that we are one of many states that luckily have this resource.

If we want to win in the global economy, we had better offer more than a good price on gas. We have to distinguish ourselves from the other states and countries with which we compete. We have a great story tell about our people, our state, our culture, and our resources that can help us stand out from the pack.

Unfortunately, that is the not story we are telling right now. Instead, we are standing out from the pack by trumpeting a few mega-lawsuits fueled by a few entrepreneurial attorneys and saber-rattling rhetoric booming from a few loud voices. Instead of threatening companies that want to employ our people, how about we focus on taking advantage of our growing economy by encouraging investment and stimulating economic growth.

It’s time to quiet the kids down and drop them off at school. This carpool is getting out of control.

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