07/22/2010 08:31 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

After BP, Will We Have Learned Anything?

The good news at press time is that the spill at the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico has been plugged. Whether it will hold or not has yet to be seen, and what will ultimately be done with the well is also unknown. However, it's a great piece of news after 90 days of this environmentally devastating disaster.

In the years to come, there will be damning accusations back and forth about whose fault this is, as well as who is responsible for the clean-up and financial reparations. At this point, however, we have an opportunity, once again, to engage in a true conversation about this country's energy policy. In other words, where do we go from here?

After the Three Mile Island facility accident took place in Harrisburg, PA in 1979, the response was to stop building any additional nuclear reactors. For over three decades, we have become more and more dependent on coal, oil, and other fossil fuels. Nuclear power certainly wasn't the only alternative energy source worth exploring, but the overall reaction to Three Mile Island actually held back research and development for a technology that did not contribute to greenhouse gases on the level of the energy sources we depend on today. Of course, the issue of radioactive waste should not be taken lightly either. However, perhaps a more measured response to what happened in Harrisburg would not have left us where we are today.

And this brings us back to the disaster in the Gulf. What will the general reaction be, and where will it lead us in the future? Will we find ourselves in the same place we did back in 1979, with our reaction being so severe that we can't manage our way to a more sensible policy?

Obviously, we're not going to move away from oil for a very long time, but that doesn't mean we can't find better ways to work with it. And just like every other source of energy, there is no quick fix.

Although we have some good news right now, my hope is that the alternative energy conversation will remain on the front page.

Jonathan A. Schein is CEO of ScheinMedia, publisher of