07/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Less-Dependence Day, July 4, 2008

Want to talk about gas prices this July 4th weekend? Great! For more than 30 years we've known what's required to recover from our oil-addiction. Tax carbon to fund alternatives, to reduce consumption and to reduce greenhouse emissions and other pollution. That tax money would have been invested in America: in jobs, in businesses, in infrastructure. Instead, we've helped fund Al-Qaeda and supported the infection of madrassas with Wahhabist fundamentalism. And invaded Iraq. And spread our military across the globe.

Every president since Jimmy Carter bears the guilt of this abject failure,* as do each of us. In a democratic nation, the sovereign people must accept responsibility for what does and does not happen.

It's long past time to tax carbon. That includes gasoline. "Cap and trade" -- moving the problem around -- is no more the road to energy less-dependence than is corn-based ethanol or drilling in Alaska or on our coasts. Nor is it a "market-based" solution as apologists claim. Internalizing the costs of carbon fuels IS a market-base solution. A carbon tax is a good way to do that, and "The Economist" (not known for its radical postions) agrees.

It's not enough to celebrate Independence one day out of the year. It's long past time to embrace the responsibilities we shirked 30 years ago. Time to stop lying to ourselves, while our future slips away. Like freedom (less-bondage), independence (less-dependence) is not easy or trivial. It's probably not even possible or desireable in an interdependent world. But, we can become much less dependent on the Saudis and the Russians and the Iranians ... . And, we can elect a president and a Congress who represents us, not them. We can start today by focusing on energy, by working to use less of it, and by demanding that carbon be taxed at a level commensurate with the damage it causes and the risks it imposes. Less-Dependence for All.

*Denis Hayes headed the Solar Energy Research Institute under President Carter. One of Reagan's first acts as President was to kill that Institute.

You'll find a lot more about America's failed energy policy in our "Paula Gordon Show: Conversations with People at the Leading Edge"(sm) programs. For starters, Alexandra Fuller gives a vivid account of how we are "Killing Wyoming". You'll also see how Denis Hayes, Kevin Phillips, Richard leakey, Paul Hawken, Edward O. Wilson, Amory Lovins, William Calvin, Riki Ott, Mike Tidwell andothers suggest we address environmental policy (and its absence) and the parallel roles of energy policy (and its absence).