Presidential Address to the Nation: A Breathtaking Opportunity to Solve the Insoluble Climate/Energy

This morning Republicans refused to consider legislation outside of the immediate oil spill. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) stated that he was "disheartened to learn that a few of the questions have nothing to do with the disaster that we're trying to solve and serve the sole purpose of scoring political points." Such statements from both political parties cannot be further from the truth. It is the very hunger for fossil fuels that have driven the oil industry to drill deeper and in more environmentally dangerous situations and it is only with considerable government intervention will a robust clean energy sector emerge and lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases as well as creating a new economy of jobs. It is also these type of responses from both political parties towards trying to solve society's major issues audaciously and inspirationally that the Breakthrough Institute is fighting against. In the seminal book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger argue that Americans status as a people with aspirations and the ability to overcome should be addressed and not restrained by a politics that only speaks to the lowest common denominator of what is possible. What better time and what better example of America's reliance on fossil fuels than the hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil seeping into lush ecosystems on the Gulf Coast. What better time to infuse new educational and employment opportunities into the economy than in a recovery that may take years to replace the millions of lost jobs? This is the moment to overcome and change the world, not have Congress huddle in a corner and refuse to act. And American's should not be frightened of dealing with such an issue in a time of great insecurity because Americans have done it before. Just look to early this year where even though we live in a time of a shrinking economy, a way was still found to insure millions of people and drastically reform the healthcare industry. With the verge the entire economic system - and seemingly, Americans way of life - on the verge of collapse, the stimulus bill, though controversial, was passed and stopped the country from entering a new Great Depression. In the book The Progress Paradox, author Gregg Easterbrook states that seemingly intractable dilemmas (like energy and climate change) can be improved and in fact "what we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems." It is often difficult to look past immediate insecurities like those created by the economic collapse, but it must remembered that the US is still a nation that has solved incredibly difficult problems and must continue to strive for that greatness. The response to the President's address tonight should not be politically calculated sound bites of how the Gulf residents are victims of an evil oil industry, how the recession will limit the US response to the issue, or how now is not the time to revamp the US energy industry. Instead, our political leaders should grasp at the possibilities of what they can solve like spurring, innovating, and creating new clean technologies because it is what Americans have always done. Sources: Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007. Easterbrook, Gregg. The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Random House, 2003.