BonGiovanni of Curtiss-Wright believes offshore drilling “would be pragmatic and would have a psychological impact across the world. It would show people that we are not fully dependent on foreign oil.” At the same time, he admits that such exploration would be “phenomenal” for his company, which makes valves and pumps used in oil drilling. Then again, Curtiss-Wright would also supply parts to makers of nuclear power plants or wind farms, so the company would benefit from other initiatives as well.
The Bank of Ireland’s Franzese would like to see the United States boost the amount of energy it derives from wind. “Wind is one strategy we must pursue,” insists Franzese, who observed the widespread European use of wind power during a previous job. “It’s here, it’s available, and it works.”
McCain and Obama both say they have comprehensive energy plans. “Senator Obama has proposed a $150 billion program of research and development and alternative-energy deployment over 10 years,” says Goolsbee. “He views alternative energy as a great possibility for the economy as a whole. It’s a means of rejuvenating the hard-hit manufacturing and construction sectors in the U.S.” Obama also proposes conservation efforts, including a $7,000 tax credit for advanced vehicles — cars that use alternative energy sources.
A key element of McCain’s energy plan is a proposal to build 45 nuclear power plants. He also wants to encourage the development of hybrid and electric cars, and hopes to speed the engineering of lower-emissions vehicles by offering a $300 million prize to anyone who can design a next-generation car battery. “Senator McCain’s plan is an all-of-the-above approach to ensuring our energy future,” says spokesperson Griffin. “We won’t be able to move off of oil all at once. We have to phase in alternative sources.”
Neither plan may be the answer, says Dale Hosack, CFO of Western Container Corp., a bottler of Coca-Cola products. “As a country we have to change our mentality, and that’s really hard,” he says. “How do we change our entire national concept of the way we operate? To me, the key trait in the next President is not his economic policy or his energy policy but his leadership skills. We need someone who can get people to change.”
While energy and the economy dominate the national conversation this election season, there are other issues that matter to CFOs, too, including personal concerns that may have little relevance to their companies. For example, finance executives rate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an issue of significant personal importance, but they score the conflicts much lower when considering their relevance to their businesses.
In providing advice to the next President, finance chiefs consistently urge a renewed focus on domestic issues. “Focus internally on things like infrastructure, energy prices, and domestic issues,” writes one survey respondent. “Lessen involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and build a stronger United States from within.”
When they enter voting booths in November, CFOs will have to reconcile their personal and professional priorities and decide which candidate’s platform suits them best. Many have noted that neither McCain nor Obama offers a perfect fit, but nearly all plan to vote. As of late July, a majority (63 percent) were poised to vote for McCain, 26 percent for Obama, and a full 10 percent were undecided or had other candidates in mind.