John P. Heimlich is the current chair of the board of directors for Consumer Energy Alliance. He is also the Vice President and Chief Economist at Airlines for America. We caught up with Heimlich to get his take on the current state of play.

The Energy Voice: Thinking about the cost of energy and doing business, what is keeping companies up at night?

Heimlich: There is a lot of innovation happening, which is good. But, at the same time there is a lot of uncertainty with respect to new regulations and revisions to tax policy. Energy producers and consumers need to make their case or else government will make it for them.

The Energy Voice: What will be President Obama’s energy legacy?

Heimlich: If he is to succeed, he will have to be the president that was able to build a consensus behind an “all of the above” energy plan. He can also clarify the link between our rapidly growing energy base and the potential to create jobs by exporting resources. Finally, his administration could break the fiscal log-jam by tapping the huge revenue opportunity that will result from expanding access to federal lands.

The Energy Voice: What are the top three energy challenges before Congress?

Heimlich: Promoting new energy investment; brokering access to federal lands for energy exploration and keeping the U.S. on pace, in an environmentally responsible manner, to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading producer of oil.

The Energy Voice: What are some of the efforts airlines have taken on the conservation front?

Heimlich: Investing billions in replacing aircraft with more fuel-efficient models, installing new engines, airframes, winglets, fan blades and other design features that improve fuel efficiency. Airlines also optimize operations in the air and on the ground to save fuel costs and minimize emissions by using “continuous descent approaches” and “required navigation performance” procedures, plus implementing satellite tracking technology, single-engine taxiing and electric gate power. Notably, U.S. airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 120 percent since 1978, the year in which domestic air service was deregulated.

The Energy Voice: Thinking about energy consumption. What topic have we not covered?

Heimlich: We have a tremendous opportunity in the United States to upgrade to a 21st century air traffic control system. If done correctly, this could be a huge benefit for the traveling public as well as the energy consumer.