I recently spent two days in Washington, DC along with others from the cruise industry. The primary purpose was to attend a Board meeting of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). We have our summer Board meeting in Washington, DC every year so that the cruise line executives and CLIA’s Executive Partners (mostly top suppliers and key ports) can get an update on what’s happening inside the Beltway and have a chance to do some visits to Members of Congress or at least to the congressional staff.
The cruise companies are first and foremost competitors. So there’s an odd ambiance at these meetings that we all need to work through to attend to the association’s business. And there is never a shortage of business to address. Most of the collective effort of the industry is in the areas of safety, security, environment, medical and public health. But the U.S. government and most other governments seem to come up with an unending array of challenges that keep us on our toes.
Sometimes challenges arise that are very specific to the industry – such as last year’s Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act that became law with the industry’s support. Sometimes the law of unintended consequences is in effect where no one was thinking about the cruise industry at all but an action is taken or might be taken that could have implications for us – for example, potential regulations aimed at speculators trading in oil derivatives that could have harmful implications for companies such as ourselves who hedge fuel prices because we actually use the stuff and need to mitigate risk.
We all see the gridlock that plagues Washington, DC. There has been gridlock from time to time throughout American history but what seems distinctive now is the absolute intransigence that is preventing sensible debate on virtually any issue. The various groups of different political persuasions demonstrate an inability to accept any possibility that an opposing group could be right on any aspect of an issue or even have any value to add to a debate. This is getting us nowhere fast, at least in the eyes of this centrist.
What the U.S. needs does not require rocket science to understand: a short-term strategy for job creation and a medium to long-term strategy for deficit reduction. The latter will involve sacrifices, particularly as it relates to alterations to the major entitlement programs. These sacrifices and the depiction of the intended long-term outcome need to be well articulated and will require people to pull together rather than to tear each other apart. The current quality of debate, or lack thereof, is pretty depressing.
Meanwhile, I will continue not only with my cruise industry specific duties but also with my energy security efforts via my position on the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC). It still may be that even in Washington, DC there will be a possibility for bipartisan support for legislation that reduces our dependence on imported oil.
The ESLC is striving to get Congress to see the wisdom of promoting electrification of road transport so that we can stop sending over $400 billion per year out of the country for the oil we need. 70% of the oil we use is in the transportation sector. The ESLC believes we should take advantage of the oil and natural gas assets we have within our control (in an environmentally responsible manner) as well as take a leadership position in the development of alternative energy sources to power the electricity grid. Clearly the U.S. needs to become much more efficient in our use of energy. Finally, ESLC emphasizes the need for politicians to understand there are going to be spikes and drops in energy prices and it does no good to lament every spike and then forget about the core problem during every drop.
Postscript – whatever Washington’s problems may be, running on the Mall and around the monuments is a major highlight for any runner.