No Time For Baby Steps

One of the areas where President Obama’s Oval Office address Tuesday night fell short was in the area of energy reform. He said many of the things that led up to it: “oil is a finite resource,” and “we consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves,” and then, “For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.” That was where I waited to hear more.

If you watched the Daily Show later that night, Jon Stewart did a phenomenal recap of the last eight administrations and their promises to, in one way or another, wean ourselves off oil. It’s hysterical and tragic.

When will that energy independent future be here? Even Rep. Ed Markey, an advocate for energy reform, wrote on the Huffington Post that “America must move to a safer clean energy future so that we don’t have to rely as much on oil to power our cars and our economy,” but it kind of felt like an after thought — you know, once oil companies pay their “fair share” to drill on public land, safety reforms are enacted for offshore drilling, and lifting the cap on the oil industry liability. Those are all incredibly important and need to be acted upon with utmost urgency to ensure that we don’t have, or are at least prepared for, a disaster that takes human life, reeks havoc on wildlife and shorelines, and handicaps an entire regional fishing industry. But we also need to really start envisioning what it means to be “Beyond Petroleum,” and what are lives will look like, what the costs are, and a roadmap toward cleaner energy.

On Thursday, during the hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee where BP CEO Tony Hayward was portrayed as the face of the oil spill, we heard a lot of grandstanding, unanswered questions, actual apologies from some of the more wrongheaded faction of Congress, and a double heaping of incredulity from members when it came to Haywards inability to answer many of their questions. But as the day wrapped up, Rep. Kathy Castor, a Florida Democrat, urged members that this incident should serve as a wake up call, and get us moving quickly on a new, clean energy policy. I’ll also note that Rep. Castor, unlike BP apologist Rep. Joe Barton, who has accepted $1.5 million from oil and gas industry over the last 20 years, has taken no money from oil and gas in her relatively short four-year incumbency, according to a nice list assembled by the Associated Press. Just sayin’.

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