10/20/2011 05:09 pm ET | Updated Dec 20, 2011

New UT Poll Shows Americans Want Clean Energy

A poll just out from the University of Texas shows that most Americans think we need to change how we get and use our energy.

Only 14 percent of respondents to the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Poll said they think the country is going in the right direction on energy issues.

For anybody who watched the Gulf oil disaster unfold last year; for anybody who sees their personal or business bank accounts dwindle with each trip to the gas station; for anybody who travels internationally and sees other countries passing us by in moving away from fossil fuels, this of course is no surprise.

As the UT survey shows, 69 percent of Americans worry that they'll be forced to spend more on energy next year -- which is one of the reasons why our economic recovery is still so anemic. More than 75 percent say they don't think our energy situation will be any better off in 25 years than it is today unless we change our ways.

About 57 percent of respondents to the UT survey said the federal government needs to do more to prepare us for future energy needs.

Clearly, Americans want new clean energy policies from Washington.

So why aren't we getting them?

You only have to tune in to the congressional circus surrounding the Solyndra case to see why. Congress so far has held three hearings on Solyndra and promises even more will come.

If there was wrongdoing in the Solyndra debacle, it should be addressed. If the system for distributing federal loan guarantees is broken, it should be fixed.

But it's obvious that the lawmakers presiding over these hearings are less concerned with fixing the system and getting the economy back on solid ground than they are with playing politics.

They're wasting precious time and effort on precisely what Americas DON'T want - more partisan discord - instead of focusing on what Americas DO want - better energy policies and a way forward for the U.S. as a leader in the global economy.

This relentless political posturing in the halls of Congress threatens to hurt what could be our country's most promising and important industry - clean energy - at exactly the wrong time. We are watching promising clean energy technologies, bought and paid for with American research dollars, flee our shores to countries with more hospitable policies. And that's where they're setting up factories and creating jobs. What's more, their products are delivering more reliable and diversified energy, as well as greater productivity through energy efficiency, making those countries more competitive than we are.

One high profile business failure is not indicative of an entire industry - and those who say it is are actually seeking to harm what is one of the only bright lights in our economy right now.

Thousands of clean energy companies across America are thriving and growing. I know because many of the members of my organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs, are changing the energy world by developing new biofuels, building fuel-sipping power plants that work like hybrid automobiles, upgrading homes and offices to make them more energy-efficient and yes, making and installing solar equipment.

I dare anyone to say that green jobs aren't real to any of the nearly 3 million American families that are working in them now. According to the Brookings Institution, 2.7 million people now work in the clean economy, and that number is growing. A Cornell University study just released by the Solar Foundation shows 100,000 Americans now work in the solar industry alone - up nearly 7 percent from a year ago. There aren't too many industries adding jobs at that pace in America today.

And beware of anybody who says we shouldn't be doing more to move away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. American home-grown renewable energy will give us supply and prices that we can control - and that means greater economic and national security.

The next energy policy for this country can't take us backwards. There's no way to drill ourselves to energy freedom. We can't afford to keep ourselves, our economy and our environment shackled to high oil and gas prices.

The great majority of Americans know we can do better than that - and the UT poll shows they want a new direction on energy in America.

-Nicole Lederer is co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a nonpartisan group of individual business leaders that promotes environmentally sustainable economic growth. She also is a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of 18 advisors to the University of Texas McCombs School of Business researchers who conducted the UT Energy Poll.