Part of the problem is governmental intransigence. For the past eight years in particular, energy policy has been driven by the oil companies (Environmental News Service, 2008), resulting in clean energy having been sidelined. Another reason is that there is significant opposition from other parties as well. Business groups have opposed clean energy measures, citing fears about higher energy costs (Dorschner, 2008). These groups have proven powerful enough to stall clean energy legislation.
Some states have limited ability to generate renewable energy sources of their own. Powerful industry trade groups such as the Edison Energy Institute have claimed that the public utilities of those states would, under clean energy initiatives, be "forced to buy higher-cost renewable energy from other suppliers." (Dorschner, 2008). There has also been considerable difficulty in getting governments to act. Texas is the nation's leading generator of wind energy, yet the Texas Senate has repeatedly refused to extend tax credits to clean energy industries without justifying this position (Dallas Morning News editorial, 2008). Still other groups claim that fossil fuel emissions are not responsible for global warming. Others take the stand that government intervention in the energy industry is a failure, citing examples from the 1970s (Lieberman & Loris, 2008).
None of these objections holds any water. Comparisons to 1970s energy policy are a straw man because modern energy strategies that promote the development of clean energy alternatives are not at all like the failed policies of the past. Many of the politicians who stand in the way of clean energy are influenced by oil companies, who are more concerned with the protection of their profitable markets than they are with developing sound energy policy for the nation. Ideally, we would elect politicians who have our best interests at heart rather than the interests of their oil industry friends. That sometimes this does not happen is normal, but it is something we as a society should be aware of.
It is astonishing that anybody could still believe that fossil fuels are not contributing to global warming. It is almost impossible to find a reputable scientist who stands against this knowledge. Studies of the earth's history have revealed that the temperature changes occurring now are unprecedented in their intensity (Zabarenko, 2007). Energy policy needs to be developed by those who have taken the time to read the scientific literature and understand the situation.
The public, whose interests lie in having a clean environment and low-cost energy, already supports the development of clean energy. San Francisco voters approved a $100 solar power initiative (Redford, 2002). Most polls suggest that the public wants the government to develop a better energy policy, and this year's election was in many ways a referendum on energy policy, since energy has dictate much of the country's economic and foreign policy during the Bush Administration (Environmental News Service, 2008).
The drive for clean energy solutions is not about protecting our short-term economic interests. That is the result of allowing oil companies to dictate our energy policy. We need a new policy, on that is focused on long-term benefits. There are upfront costs to developing clean energy sources. But they are nothing in comparison to the long-term costs of not developing clean energy. If we do not, we will face higher oil prices. We will face greater oil shortages as world supplies begin to dwindle. We will perpetuate the massive wealth transfer that results from importing 70% of our oil needs. This will continue to create jobs overseas, but will not create jobs in America. We will continue to be dependent on unfriendly regions. This increases the risk of war and terrorism. To continue our reliance on fossil fuels will result in further environmental degradation. The oceans will rise, flooding our coastal cities. Our ability to feed ourselves will become compromised as desertification spreads across the Great Plains. Our water resources, too, will shrink.
The only solution to all of these problems is to develop clean energy sources.
Wind, solar, and even biomass energy will reduce our carbon footprint, thereby helping to slow the process of global warming. Clean energy will help to end the transfer of wealth overseas, and create good jobs domestically. These will be spread around the country, providing benefit to regions where job creation is essential.
We will improve national security by reducing our dependence on other countries. Given the opportunity to achieve economies of scale, clean energy will cost less than fossil fuels. This will be especially true as declining reserves cause the price of oil to continue to rise. We have the capacity to do this. America is the world's technological leader. We are blessed with one of the world's largest wind corridors, east of the Rockies. We receive abundant sunlight. Mother Nature has given us the means to take control of our own energy needs. The benefits are clear, as are the costs of perpetuating our reliance on oil. We must develop clean energy now. To do anything less would be to fail ourselves, and to fail our children.
Baker, David R. "Energy: Renewable power, alternative fuel measures early losers." San Francisco Chronicle 5 Nov 2008: p. A10
Redford, Robert. "The Highest Patriotism Lies in Weaning the U.S. from Fossil Fuels" Los Angeles Times. 2 Dec 2002: p. B11
No author. "Democrats Want Obama to Grow a Green, Clean Energy Economy" Environmental News Service. 27 Aug 2008: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-27-01.asp. Accessed 13 Nov 2008
No author (editorial). "Our view on energy mandates: Time for national standards" USA Today 20 Oct 2008: p. 12A
Lieberman, Ben & Loris, Nicolas. "Energy Policy: Let's not repeat the mistakes of the 70s" the Heritage Foundation 28 Jul 2008: http://www.heritage.org/Research/EnergyandEnvironment/wm2004.cfmAccessed 13 Nov 2008
Selin, Noelle Eckley. "Renewable Energy" Encyclopedia Britannica 2008.