As a country, the United States is still young. Relative to the greatest nations of times past, the United States is in the throes of adolescence. American ingenuity has produced and refined some of the greatest innovations of the human race, yet as of late that creativity has faded. America has been overcome by complacency, and born of this complacency is a growing call…a call for change. This call has been brought on by a housing sector that is overleveraged, a consumer credit market that is frozen by fear, and once prominent industries that now hemorrhage jobs. The irony is that the root cause of these problems is also that which fuels the American Dream; energy plain and simple. That is why re-inventing the energy economy is one of the most important challenges this nation will face. Energy reform that is based on efficiency and conservation of resources ultimately will produce jobs, create a solid foundation for the American economy, and promote a positive global image for this nation.
Changing the way that the United States uses energy is not a simple task, but the importance of this change warrants the challenge. Some say energy reform is too risky; arguing that it is not worth the cost. Well, one would also have to ask, what is the cost of inaction? This nation’s actions on energy and the environment will be studied by the international community very closely. There is currently a very important piece of legislation making its way through the Senate. The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) is one of the biggest pieces of legislation for battling climate change and developing renewable energy sources. The legislation calls for a new cap-and-trade plan that would reduce green house gas emissions, opens the door for the development of a decentralized smart electric grid, and requires large energy producer’s portfolios to contain at least 20% renewable sources (Library of Congress, 2009). Passage of ACES could provide a framework for the replacement of the Kyoto Protocol when the United Nations meet for the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark this December. The passage of ACES could also help the world see that clean energy is the next big industry.
These changes would show the rest of the world that Americans are sensitive to the needs of the earth. ACES would also allow the United States to break its dependence on foreign sources of energy. This is significant because the United States is the world’s largest consumer of energy resources. A decreased demand for oil would improve the United States bargaining capabilities with Iran; a nation indirectly dependent on America’s insatiable appetite for energy. Although trade between the U.S. and Iran is largely restricted, a decrease in oil revenue would give the Iranian Government economic incentive to begin negotiations. In essence the U.S. could engage its rival in a non-hostile way; allowing Iran to come to terms on its own rather than by force.
Just as energy reform will improve America’s image on the international stage it will promote growth and create jobs for the economy at home. The revamping of this country’s power grid will expand the fields of renewable energy, engineering, and Information technology. A smart grid will also help to cut the more than $100 billion a year in lost revenues attributed to power quality issues (U.S. DOE, n.d.).
To supply the new sustainable energy economy with skilled laborers and researchers, colleges and universities will see increased enrollments. There will also be a need for more professors and faculty to teach these new skills. These are all jobs that will be created right here in the United States. Energy reform could produce sentiments similar to those during Kennedy’s New Frontier; ushering in a new generation of dreamers and inventors.
As if to foreshadow the future, Jimmy Carter once said “energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this Nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our Nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny.” Rather than dwell in the present wondering when the situation will change, American’s can look to their future and make a push for change. A recession is nothing but a correction; a way for the market to fix its flaws. If the United States builds its economy on sustainability, the possibilities are endless.
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