A new energy policy: If not now, when? – Guest Column

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has introduced a clear plan to reduce America’s dependence on oil — a plan with specific timelines, real accountability and a program for building the clean-energy economy.

Merkley’s plan is doable — feasibility has never been the issue in America’s long history of big talk and small action on energy independence. It’s just a question of whether Congress can stand up to the influence of fossil fuel interests and get it done.

It’s hard to imagine a riper set of circumstances for a clean-energy revolution. The disaster in the Gulf provides vivid, daily reminders of the high costs of fossil fuel dependence. But it’s not the only or even the most important reason to kick the habit.

Climate disruption is already taking a toll on human and natural systems worldwide. Unchecked, it will undermine our ability to “preserve a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted,” in the words of our pre-eminent climate scientist, NASA’s James Hansen.

Meanwhile, our economy is sputtering. It needs more than a tuneup; it needs a new engine. And the most powerful new driver for innovation, investment and jobs globally is the burgeoning clean-energy economy.

Those who say we can’t afford to kick our fossil fuel addiction just aren’t doing the math. But our competitors are. Germany, Spain, Japan and China are just a few of the countries that have made strong commitments to lead the clean-energy transition and reaped the benefits of reduced imports, energy cost savings, dynamic new industries and good new jobs. Every day America waits to pass a serious climate and energy policy is a day we slip further behind in the race for global economic leadership. That’s why more than 200 Oregon businesses are part of a national campaign to support comprehensive clean-energy and climate legislation. As if the entrenched power of oil and coal interests weren’t enough, the Senate faces another political obstacle: fear. Senators are afraid that Americans aren’t ready for fundamental change. They’re afraid their opponents will twist the issue for political advantage. They’re afraid that solutions might not pan out.

But Americans across the spectrum know — now more than ever — that fossil fuel dependence is a dead-end street. We have the technology, the ingenuity and the will to tackle our dependence on fossil fuels.