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To Do: U.S. Energy Policy

“We Have No Energy Strategy.”

Economist and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman outdid himself yesterday morning in his Times editorial Dumb as We Wanna Be. He criticizes presidential candidates McCain and Clinton for proposing a “vacation” from the federal excise tax (18.4 cents per gallon) on gasoline for the summer.

We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing just the opposite.

This is just the latest blundering misstep in our (lack of) national energy policy. The reason we need a national energy policy is NOT because gasoline is approaching $4.00 a gallon (and it’s the summer driving season) — but because the United States pours out almost one-fourth of the total carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that enter the Earth’s atmosphere each year.

These greenhouse gas emissions are primarily due to the use of carbon-based fossil fuels — petroleum, coal and natural gas — and directly contribute to the problem of global warming. Friedman continues:

When Congress passed the 2007 energy bill last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those for wind and solar have been left to expire this December.

Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years. Ours, at best, run two years.

The scientific consensus is that Earth’s climate is gradually warming and that this change is attributable to human activities — greenhouse gas emissions.

We can change this! — by making significant changes in how we run our economy, design our cars, build our buildings.

The United States should provide leadership in the global economy, showing that it is possible to provide growth and jobs without degrading the environment.

What should we be doing?

The United States has in the past mobilized its vast material and creative resources to accomplish many enormous projects: digging itself out of the Depression with back-to-work programs and social support programs; fighting and winning two World Wars; helping to rebuild Europe with the post-war Marshall Plan; putting a man on the moon and exploring the solar system.

We need a coordinated National Energy Strategy, led from the White House and supported by the Congress — a peacetime Manhattan Project with two primary goals:

1. To greatly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels; and

2. To stimulate research and development of clean, renewable energy sources and delivery systems.

Milly, my 8-month-old granddaughter, deserves to grow up in a world that can sustainably provide ample energy and food and water for its inhabitants.

Everybody else on the planet deserves this too.

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