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Idea of the Day: How Do We Achieve an Energy-Independent Future?

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America’s energy future is at a crossroads. Everyone can agree that we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil while strengthening our economy and creating jobs. But how do we get there?

One path at first appears to be a shortcut: Exploiting our natural resources and drilling our way to an energy-independent future. But it’s a deceptive path, which disregards the long-term implications for our landscapes, environment, security, and economy. The alternative is a longer but more realistic path, one that continues to diversify and strengthen the economy through proactive solutions that move us toward sustainable energy independence and create the jobs of the future.

In that first vision—brought to us in ads, policy briefs, and conferences funded by billion-dollar energy companies—America is a land of fossil-fuel extraction, where every region makes its own contribution to a drilling-intensive future. Fossil fuel interests have spent an estimated $153 million in this year alone promoting fossil fuels and attacking clean energy industries, but perhaps the best articulation of this “drill, baby, drill” vision comes from the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry’s trade association. Its recent platform proposal to the Republican and Democratic party platform committees advocates drilling for oil offshore, for oil and gas onshore, for coal mining in general, and for building pipelines to transport all these dirty fossil fuels around the country. The industry institute applies this same backward-looking strategy to every region of the country, regardless of whether it’s the most effective method.

It is clear that this strategy enhances the profitability of big oil companies. But it’s much less clear that it enhances the interests of the American people.

And ultimately, it’s a mirage. The United States cannot achieve lasting energy and economic security through resource extraction alone. An energy plan based solely on drilling and mining for more and harder-to-reach fossil fuels squanders the opportunity to diversify and strengthen our economy, threatens our nation’s ability to lead in the global marketplace, and completely ignores the urgent need to combat climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Furthermore, it dismisses the significant growth of the clean economy, a diverse set of industries that employs some 3.1 million Americans.

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This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

For more from the same column, click here