05/27/2010 12:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Escape Oil Before We Drown

It's hard to watch the video and not get emotional. The oil continues to spill out in a deadly black plume that is existentially threatening fragile ecosystems, including the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, across several states.

The BP oil spill will most likely be the worst disaster of this kind - until the next one.

With the viscous cloud spreading uncontrolled, we're once again faced with the tremendous quandary of our age- we know that petroleum is a dirty, expensive and ultimately destructive energy source, but we're addicted to it.

Our economy and lifestyle - from cars to plastics - depend on oil.

Even as BP and the Federal Government look for ways to stop the spill - something they still don't seem to have a clue how to achieve - we continue to hear the pro-oil types making their typical pronouncements to the media. We're not getting off oil any time soon, they say. So we better get used to dealing with the occasional ecological disaster, like the Gulf oil spill.

In short, we run the risk of drowning in oil, but we don't have a choice.

But is that really true? Are we trapped for decades in the grasp of this collective addiction that destroys the nature we depend on for our very existence while emptying our national treasury?

If ever there was an argument for a major push toward new energy technologies, this disaster is definitive. Beyond the incompetence of BP - they did not actually have a plan to deal with this kind of accident - the fact is that accidents do happen, and at 5,000 feet on the ocean floor no solution will ever be 100% effective. Not all problems will be identified before they blow up - literally.

In short the most modern drilling technology is inherently dangerous. It will sooner or later produce another mega accident that will kill people, destroy part of our planet and cost billions to clean up.

We need a leap of imagination. We need visionaries that can create the next generation of clean energy platforms. And the Government should, like it did for the Internet, seed these technologies, fund expansive research and pilot programs.

We did not become the world's leading power by accepting the status quo. Our culture invented some of the modern era's most important technologies and imaginative ways to implement them. The gargantuan profits of dirty oil and coal have blinded us to the overarching need to escape their allure. But our collective intellectual prowess can lead us in a new direction.

After so much rhetoric from politicians of both parties, we must finally embark on the Manhattan Project of energy independence. The Government must go beyond what is currently thought possible and fund blue sky projects that can lead to the next transformative breakthrough. We have it in our DNA, we can do it.

All we now need is the political will to push through the powerful interests of the petroleum industry until we have a range of practical, non-destructive energy solutions that build on our global economic leadership - and save the planet from its devastating addiction to oil.