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Tilting at Windmills

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Writing about the environment on the Huffington Post may not be much of a surprise to its avid readers. Progressives everywhere are worried about America's alarming and disproportionate dependence on fossil-fuels and their effect on our ecological well-being and national security.

The problem for progressives is strategic. Americans don't need to be convinced that fossil fuels are bad. That has been conventional wisdom since the 1970s. Touchy-feely appeals to altruism won't move more Americans to support wind-farms or hybrid cars. Instead, Americans need to be convinced that clean energy - wind, solar, and water - is real, it's here. And it's working. In short, instead of singing "Kumbya," the environmental movement - especially when it comes to clean energy - needs a business-like marketing plan.

Few Americans realize that there is already enough clean energy to power every hospital and school in the country, every professional sports stadium, and every factory in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Fewer still will realize that clean energy is available in many places through a flip of a switch - no backyard windmills required. In truth, the perception that solar, wind and hydro power involves too many trade-offs and inconveniences is the most dangerous threat to its widespread adoption.

The strategic problem of increasing consumer demand for clean energy is all the more difficult because some of the left's leading voices have themselves hedged on the matter. The Kennedy family's opposition to a proposed offshore wind farm in Hyannis Port sent shock waves through our ranks, a heartbreaking confirmation that no one is immune from the power of not-in-my-backyard politics.

But that confirmation should tell progressives the extent of the sales job that needs to be done in America. Clean energy needs to be the "Got Milk" campaign of our generation. If you don't have it, you're the one with the problem.

The left must take an approach that comes out of right field. We must adopt words and ideas like, "Market Development," "Business Strategy," "Customers," and, "Growth," if we are to seize on this moment of national discontent and opportunity, and create a truly sustainable clean energy policy.

Simply put, the environmental movement needs to grow up, adopt a market oriented message that makes more Americans aware of their energy options and empower individuals to take control. This will create consumer demand that will generate more clean energy choices and fewer politicians that oppose the means to create it. Until this happens, a tiny minority of Americans, driven by ignorance or self-interest, will continue to drive energy policy in Washington and Hyannis