Thinking green

Our view: America needs energy leadership

July 21, 2008

In Maryland and across the nation, people are beginning to rethink the economic and environmental implications of America's dependence on expensive imported oil and are deciding to go green, in ways small and large.

Last week, the state rolled out hybrid buses to begin replacing its polluting diesel fleet, and Gov. Martin O'Malley gave a nod toward joining Delaware in placing power-generating windmills off the Atlantic Coast. Meanwhile, Al Gore provocatively suggested that the nation can convert all electricity generation to wind, solar and other renewable sources within 10 years.

Critics are mocking Mr. Gore's proposal as impossible to achieve. But compared to the alternatives - drilling for oil in now-protected areas offshore and in Alaska - the former vice president's plan or some equally ambitious mix of conservation and innovation offers the best chance to give the United States a brighter energy future and a cleaner environment.

As T. Boone Pickens, a Texas oilman who is offering his own scheme to rescue America from imported oil, points out in television ads: "We import 70 percent of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year - four times the annual cost of the Iraq war ... this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of."

Americans are already looking to conserve - gas use is down 5.5 percent, fuel-efficient cars are in demand, and thermostats are inching higher. At the same time, the idea of increased drilling is gaining public support because many believe doing something is better than nothing. But drilling, pursuing phantom speculators or tapping the Strategic Oil Reserve, as some politicians have proposed, will not stop the flood of imported oil.

Mr. Gore's ambitious proposal offers the right goals, an appropriate sense of urgency and a vision that has thus far been missing in the energy debate. He sets a high standard for those who would join the discussion of how America should aim for energy independence.

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