Your Flight Has Been Cancelled

"The airline industry as it is constituted today was not built to withstand oil prices at $125 a barrel, and certainly not when record fuel prices are coupled with a weak US economy". So said American Airlines CEO Gerard Aprey yesterday in announcing dramatic cuts to service that will eliminate thousands of jobs, remove one of 8 American planes from the sky and charge passengers $15 to check a single suitcase.

Arpey warned the rest of the industry to follow suit or plunge into bankruptcy. And today, the Wall Street Journal reports that the International Energy Agency is anticipating reductions in supply that may drive prices higher.

The wholesale scaleback of air service as we know it is just one of the many ways skyrocketing fuel prices are beginning to alter America's way of life Yet shockingly, we still have no plan or policy to deal with it. President Bush begging Saudi King Abdullah to raise production last week or even Congress ending purchases for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is not a policy.

While Senators Obama and Clinton have proposed broad energy policies, action is needed now. Conditions in the airline industry are approaching those after Sepember 11th when the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was tapped and energy officials should consider that now. Congress should move immediately to fund the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit to fund wind and solar investments. And the White House should convene a national energy council, as proposed by both Democratic Senators, modeled after the National Security Counsil, to meet weekly to address the current crisis and long term issues surrounding energy prices, dependence on foreign oil and climate change. Things will get worse before they get better, but at a minimum a crisis such as this needs attention.