by Jeff Ecker, Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 16, 2022
With soaring inflation and rising energy costs, small-business owners are particularly hard-hit during these difficult and uncertain economic times. Many small businesses are already struggling to recover from the pandemic. Rising costs brought on by high gas prices are simply not affordable.
For example, farmers and producers are passing on their higher costs for fuel and fertilizer, and food distributors are passing on their transportation costs. Right now, the restaurant industry is experiencing some of the highest food costs in recent history.
This is compounding the already existing issue of labor expenses, which are rising at an unsustainable rate. Restaurants have been collapsing already, because of labor costs. Many are having to borrow money heavily to maintain lease agreements as well. The barrage of increased costs is crippling the industry.
As a business owner and restaurant operator, I understand the importance of thinking strategically to be successful. Our country must do the same to address our energy crisis before it wipes out restaurants and other small businesses across the nation. Fortunately, the United States is well-positioned to benefit from our nation’s mix of renewable and conventional energy sources, making the adoption of a national “all of the above” energy policy a viable solution to reducing energy costs.
Encouraging the responsible production of oil and natural gas offers an immediate solution to our toughest energy challenges, and President Joe Biden should look to enact policies that encourage more domestic energy production. In fact, domestic oil and natural gas sourced from places such as the Gulf of Mexico are some of the most socially and environmentally responsible energy products in the world.
There is no reason that our leaders should be going abroad to ask other countries — many of whom are hostile to our nation — to raise their production when we can do so here safely and cleanly.
President Biden could encourage more domestic production by calling on the Department of the Interior to issue a new plan guiding domestic oil and gas production for the next five years. The current five-year offshore leasing program expires at the end of this month.
Under normal circumstances, a plan outlining the schedule for new lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico would have already been put in place so that lease sales would not cease between plans. But even though we are facing record costs and need more production right now, the agency responsible for preparing the plan is already months behind schedule.
This unnecessary delay will result in no new lease sales for sixteen months or more. The uncertainty over future supply is certain to have an impact on pricing for energy consumers such as restaurants and small businesses. Prices will rise because of this delay, and we will all feel the impact.
By promptly renewing the five-year plan for offshore leasing, President Biden will send a strong message that he understands the pressures facing America’s restaurateurs and small businesses. In adopting an “all of the above” energy policy that includes a portfolio of clean and conventional resources, the president can help reduce costs, promote national security and offer a smoother transition to renewable energy sources.
America must continue to diversify its energy portfolio, but we must be realistic and do our best to limit the financial hardship that rising energy prices are causing today. President Biden should do what is right for small businesses and consumers across America and renew our nation’s five-year offshore leasing program, ensuring that America can again continue to meet its energy needs affordably for years to come.
Jeff Ecker is president of Restaurant-Restaurant Consultants of Las Vegas, which operates Paymon’s Fresh Kitchen, Paymon’s Lounge and Paymon’s Ultra Lounge.