This election may have been the most exciting one in our lifetimes, especially for those engaged in the energy debate. Energy policy was one of the most important issues of the presidential campaign, and the fact that the election is over does not mean the campaign to get our nation Energy Smart is finished.
All of us still have serious work to do if we want to help make America environmentally sustainable, energy independent and economically sound.
Barack Obama's supporters didn't get him elected president of the United States by just "hoping" him into office. It took an impassioned campaigning effort of unprecedented magnitude -- one that was carried on the shoulders of Americans of all ages and backgrounds. Our nation's energy future now demands this same kind of passionate effort.
This is not a partisan campaign, nor should it be ideological or at all political.
Both presidential candidates ran campaigns that included promises of building up clean energy in the U.S. in order to create jobs, liberating us from our dependence on foreign oil and reducing the environmental impact of climate change.
To our nation's good fortune, President-elect Obama has already displayed an aggressive approach to energy and the environment. He has appointed an experienced transition team to begin the planning needed to implement his campaign promise of investing $150 billion in clean energy development and the creation of five million new green collar jobs.
Now, if there is one thing most Americans agree on, it's that we can't expect the government to solve all our problems for us. There is no question that the need for progressive energy policy is critical to rapidly advancing the production of clean energy and energy-efficient technology in the U.S. However, the idea that policy is all that's needed to solve our energy problems is completely the wrong idea.
Americans must be proactive and do everything we can right now to support clean energy and energy efficiency -- without waiting for a new president, a new law or a new anything. One way we can do this is by voting with our dollars in the American energy marketplace.
This point came to mind when Andrew Voris, an employee at my organization, SmartPower , recently returned to our D.C. office from signing up residents in Pennsylvania for their utility's wind energy option. (Wind energy is just one of the clean energy options offered by utilities in many areas throughout the U.S. These options allow each of us the opportunity to vote with our dollars by purchasing various forms of new, regional clean energy produced from wind farms, solar farms, landfills, and other nonpolluting sources.)
After returning from his trip, Andrew gave the usual report: many individuals gladly signed up for clean energy and many more wanted to engage him and learn about the subject.
The most troubling responses he had heard, though, were not the negative or even the indifferent comments and reactions to clean energy that we sometimes hear. Rather, the most startling news he passed along, indeed the comments that really blew me away was of people saying: "I think I'll wait and see what Obama will do."
Imagine that. It is the same as saying: "I really care about that issue, so I'm going to wait and see what the government does about it."
This has been a concern of mine for a while, way before any of us even knew whom our presidential candidates would be -- that if a democrat won the presidency, many in the country would think that our clean energy needs would be fulfilled and we could all sit back and not worry about the issue.
I know the example I just cited to illustrate my worries is purely anecdotal, and also that "waiting on Obama" can easily fall into the same category of so many of the other apathetic excuses we all give for not doing things we should.
It's an argument, though, and one that is worth swatting down right away. Let's not wait for new policies--let's get started right now. Each and every one of us can be the change that we have been looking for. We can starts right now, in our own homes, our own schools and our own businesses and communities.
One thing is for sure, if President-elect Obama sticks to the promises of his campaign, the most important act he will do as president will be to call upon each American to do everything he or she can to raise our country back up again. When it comes to America's energy future, this will mean exactly what Barack Obama said on the campaign trail -- each of us needs to be a part of the solution-- reduce our daily energy consumption, use more energy-efficient products . . . and buy clean energy!
Brian F. Keane is the president of SmartPower, www.smartpower.org