Time to Unleash American Innovation on Energy and Climate Change

07/19/2010 11:41 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

BP's oil gusher has induced a collective sense of helplessness, and even despair, in many Americans, while underscoring our country's long-standing failure to develop a serious national energy policy. But helplessness and despair are precisely the wrong reactions to the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

In an Op-Ed earlier this week in Politico, four entrepreneurs - Environmental Entrepreneurs co-founder Nicole Lederer. BrightSource Energy President and CEO John Woolard, Solazyme CEO Jonathan Wolfson, and Better Place's Michael Granoff - described their vision for a clean and prosperous energy future.

As business leaders focused on meeting environmental and economic challenges, we know that achieving these goals is within our grasp. We already have the technologies and the knowledge; what we need are the policies to bring these technologies to scale.

What are those policies? For starters, instead of sending more than $1 billion every day overseas to buy foreign oil, we could invest that money "here at home -- to spur innovation, improve infrastructure and put the United States back on a path of economic growth. "

According to the authors of this article, the "clean energy and climate legislation now before the Senate is a good start," and they're absolutely right. We need to start now, with comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. We need to encourage the transition from a fossil-fuel, carbon-based energy economy to one powered by energy efficiency, solar, wind, and possibly even cutting-edge new technologies like microalgae-to-oil plants.

The potential for multiple, simultaneous "wins" - on national security, environment, jobs, the economy, the trade deficit, etc. - is clearly there. The only real question is, what are we waiting for to seize that potential?