America is in a tough place right now. In a recent poll, nearly half of voters said they think our country's best days are behind us. It's understandable, then, that many of us may be looking back and longing for the past, when life seemed a little bit easier.
But looking back isn't going to get us out of the fix we're in.
Yet that's exactly what Mitt Romney seems to be proposing in the energy plan he rolled out last week. His best recommendation for our country is that we cling to the same old energy technology from the 19th century -- the outdated, polluting fossil fuels that have caused so many problems for Americans -- from contaminating our air and water and saddling us with asthma, heart disease and cancer, to forcing us to reach deeper and deeper into our pockets to subsidize oil giants like Chevron, BP and Exxon.
If Romney stood up in front of Americans and suggested that we build telegraph lines instead of smartphones, no one would take him seriously. Yet that's exactly what his energy plan does.
It ignores the smartest, cleanest, most innovative technology -- and instead pours everything we've got left into the clunky, outdated, dirty fuels of the 19th century. Instead of putting Americans to work building state-of-the-art electric vehicles and modernizing our energy grid, Romney proposes we let a Canadian oil company cobble together a giant pipeline to carry toxic tar sands oil across America's heartland to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be shipped overseas. He proposes we open up America's last untouched waterways and wild places to oil companies.
It doesn't take much of an imagination to see where this strategy will get us. Just look around. We'll see more communities like Richmond, Calif., exposed to life-threatening fires and a steady dose of toxic air. We'll see more disasters like the BP oil spill. We'll see more neighborhoods like those on Chicago's south side, where children struggle to breath as the result of living in the shadow of 100-year-old coal plants. We'll see more job opportunities evaporate. And we'll watch America fall farther and farther behind.
The truth is, we can drill every last one of America's beaches and wildlife refuges, and we'll still run out of oil. We can blow the top off every last mountain, and we'll still run out of coal. And the longer we stand around with our eyes locked on the dirty fuels of yesteryear, the more real opportunities will keep sailing on by. That's the fundamental problem with Romney's plan.
It misses so much opportunity. The world around us is already charging full-speed ahead into a clean energy future. Countries like China and India have seen the potential, and they're honing in. If we follow Romney's plan, they'll easily outpace us.
Here in America, even with modest investment in clean energy, we're already seeing results. Iowa gets 20 percent of its energy from wind. Texas has enough wind turbines to power 2 million homes. Meanwhile, the wind industry is rapidly creating manufacturing jobs around the country -- the kind of jobs that create pathways into the middle class. In California alone, we've added more than 20,000 jobs in clean energy -- at a time when the state's overall unemployment rate is over ten percent. That's just the tip of the iceberg. If we really get serious about clean energy, we can do even more.
Imagine if every state was producing as much wind as Iowa and Texas. Imagine if every city got serious about weatherizing the buildings that account for nearly 40 percent of our carbon pollution. We would not only slash pollution -- we'd create good, family-supporting jobs for millions of Americans. Jobs that can't be shipped overseas.
This isn't a distant dream for the future; it's the real world that's here in front of us right now, today. And if we want to get America on its feet again, we need to wake up, leave the past behind, and get serious about 21st century energy -- clean energy.
Follow Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/phaedrael