This is the 30th anniversary of the FMI Energy Conference. When you look back at that inaugural year, 1979, there was a lot of talk about renewable energy and escaping dependence on foreign oil. President Jimmy Carter even installed solar panels on the White House roof. But then oil prices came down, and it was back to business-as-usual. (President Reagan removed the solar panels.)
So fast-forward to 2009 and there's a lot of talk about renewable energy and escaping dependence on foreign oil. The difference is that energy prices are not likely to go down, especially over the long term, and we can't afford to go back to business-as-usual. Change is coming and this time, it's going to happen. That was the message of this morning's first speaker, Marc Gunther, senior writer for Fortune Magazine, and I fully concur. Even with all the partisan politics raging in Washington, a cap-and-trade bill is likely to be passed and signed by President Obama, if not this year, then in 2010.
Cap-and-trade will mark a sea change for the supermarket industry and all energy-dependent businesses. Safeway's manager of energy operations, Cathy Ikeuchi, did a nice job this morning explaining how Safeway is getting a head start on cap-and-trade by working with the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). Smart food retailers will follow Safeway's lead.