The U.S. has quite the penchant for creating celebrities. The manufactured stars that we already have at our disposal are never enough. Like Rice Krispie treats, you tell yourself “just one more,” but there is always the next YouTube sensation—or in this case, a private citizen who manages to pique our interest, at least for a news cycle or two. It’s just usually not in the energy industry.
Meet the new man of the hour, Energy’s Latest Unsung Hero: Ken Bone, who was in attendance at Sunday night’s much anticipated presidential debate. The event was a town hall style debate, and the members of the audience, who were pre-screened by Gallup and selected by the moderators, had the chance to query the man and woman who are both vying for frequent flyer miles on Air Force One.
Bone took the spotlight by asking Trump and Clinton a serious question in the midst of mud slinging, pursed lips, disappointed faces, and mock indignation. His question? “What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job layoffs?"
And a star was born.
Every news source in the world is now pondering why Bone is so interesting. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and even Cnet have jumped on the Ken Bone Bandwagon, analyzing his demeanor, his background, his choice to wear an Izod red sweater (which was an impromptu decision after a last-minute wardrobe malfunction, and now is sold out in every size from coast to coast), and even his name.
Bone has seen a spike in Twitter followers to the tune of tens of thousands, countless Facebook friend requests, and the requisite rush of interview requests, including this morning’s interview on Fox News.
Bone, who is still undecided as to his choice of candidates has a dog in the energy fight – works in the control room of a coal-fired power plant in Southern Illinois, and is grappling with the issue of environmental responsibility versus the resource that keeps him employed. Bone says that he was glad to “spark” the energy debate which he says is being overlooked.
And the answer to his question? Well, one has to do a bit of work to discern the candidates’ answers. In a nutshell, Trump decried what he called attacks on the energy industry by the federal government, and promised to bring energy companies back and make them competitive. For her part, Hillary attacked Trump over steel imports, while calling natural gas a bridge to renewable fuels, and called for America to become energy independent (we wonder if she meant without fracking). She also reminded the audience that she has a plan to revitalize the coal industry.
The voice of the average person is one that is overlooked in the issue of energy. It is the average person who ultimately bears or enjoys the cost of fuel, and may or may not face unemployment depending on the behavior of the market, or on policy. The human face of energy is one that gets lost in the crowd.
For example, the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah at one time enjoyed record low unemployment rates, and had an economy that was 80 percent dependent on oil and gas. Whether or not one agrees with the recent policy decisions on fossil fuels and public lands, homes in the area are under foreclosure, people are leaving for greener pastures, and businesses have shuttered.
Hopes had been raised with the announcement that that BLM had greenlit an oil and natural gas project, but a federal judge has put that on hold.
Perhaps the interest in Ken Bone has been sparked by the fact that he represents real people who want real answers, not soaring rhetoric, sound bites or reality-TVish drama.
Lincoln Brown for Oilprice.com
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