Offshore drilling--No! Climate-friendly energy--Yes!

07/04/2008 08:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Proposals by presidential hopeful John McCain and Florida Governor Charlie Crist to drill for oil offshore is the wrong direction for the United States, and most Americans know it.

We have only a short time to make a turnaround on climate change or the weather disasters we've seen in the Midwest could become the norm, and we could find ourselves in runaway cycles that could make much of the planet inhospitable to human life.

Instead of drilling for more of the very carbon-based fuel that is causing the problem, the American people by large majorities favor conservation and the development of renewable energy. And the alternatives are well within our means.

Buildings are responsible for 30-40 percent of the climate impact. By retrofitting existing buildings and making new construction climate friendly, we'll create green jobs where they are most needed, and jump start a stalling economy, while reducing our carbon footprint.

Americans are driving much less then they were a year ago -- 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 compared to April 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Many are scrambling to find alternatives, and public transportation and electric vehicle are available, as we outlined in the YES! Climate Change issue. But a bit of leadership at the federal level would go a long way towards softening the blow of high fuel prices while reducing our climate impact.

To make sure that there is enough clean electricity to run these climate-friendly forms of transportation, we need a major investment in wind, solar, geothermal, tidal energy. This is all quite do-able. Sweden is making progress on its pledge to go oil free in 15 years. And Germany is a leading country in solar installation, not because it is especially sunny, but because it made the commitment. Many of the best energy policy ideas we found as we researched our climate change issue are being implemented in Germany. All of these policies are well within our reach here in the U.S. All of them would provide new areas for economic growth and buffer us from the long-term shock of high oil prices.

Despite all these option, you'll still hear people say that increasing offshore drilling would be a favor to American families. But what do the American people say?

  • An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken June 6-9 shows 27 percent say the development of wind and solar power is their top choice for energy development, while just 16 percent favor offshore exploration.
  • A March 2008 Gallup poll shows that 61 percent of Americans favor conservation of existing energy supplies over production of more oil, gas, and coal supplies.
  • Sixty-four percent of those surveyed last year (I don't have 2008 numbers) were even willing to pay higher energy taxes if the money was used for the development of renewable energy alternatives.
On this issue, like a number of others, the American people are out ahead of their leaders.

Maybe this will be the election season when the American people offer our representatives clarity about what we want, and insist that they do their jobs representing us--not big oil and coal--and our aspirations for a sustainable future for all.