Watch CBSN Live

Column: Politicians' Alternative Energy Plans Just As Damaging As Oil Dependency

This story was written by John Glaser, Daily Collegian

Imagine a world where the foreign policy of the most eminent superpower was not at all determined or influenced by the energy needs of its citizenry, where blood and treasure were not wasted in vain in otherwise needless wars.

Imagine a circumstance not as twisted as one where our extremist enemies received funding for education, training and resources by our own dependence on the natural resources beneath their feet, where the power of brutal authoritarians ruling over those lands were not sustained in large part by the immediacy of that dependence.

Imagine an America which led the international community in the reversal of what is perhaps the most damaging environmental disease yet bestowed upon Earth.

The world's troubling addictive reliance on oil as the engine to comfortable modern existence is an issue so all encompassing, so applicable in some way to nearly every political persuasion and ideological penchant, that it should be one in which affirmative progress is radically more forthcoming than it has so far proven to be.

Unfortunately, the bipartisan governing elite, along with the corresponding accepted opinion on how best to facilitate such progress, are ill equipped in paving the way for the supremacy of alternative renewable energy sources.

The need for what journalist Tom Friedman has called a Green Revolution -- an unleashing of innovation and improvement in alternative energy -- has become a national security issue as well as an environmental issue. The topic validates it as a concern pertinent to either side of the isle.

A successful revolution of this sort would not only alter establishment policies significantly and change the world for the better, it would renew the much needed competitive economic edge America has had for most of its existence.

The inability of the Washington establishment to deliver workable constitutional legislation, however, is a reality overlooked by both the media and the electorate.

The pathetically transparent federal subsidization of corn-based ethanol -- an energy source which several studies have shown dramatically accelerates global warming -- is a ploy by the farm lobby as well as politicians looking for votes and eco-brownie points. Yet the public still faithfully looks to Congress for the answers to a sustainable future.

Calls by politicians to put forth gas tax holidays or to implement domestic oil drilling campaigns -- an alleged tour de force towards self-sufficiency -- are backwards-looking machinations barely cognizant of the problems we face. Yet voters and the media are still flush with reverence at the notion of omniscient politicians saving our world.

Impressionable voters, young and old, predictably fall for the stated plans of candidates for president, forgetting the failed or unfulfilled promises of a mere four years ago. In 2004, both the Republican and the Democratic Party platforms declared explicitly their commitment to research and investment in alternative energy sources.

Some of this legislation has been successful in both houses and has avoided veto, but few if any have produced desirable results. This is because arbitrary planning by ignorant representatives does not generate success and has not predicted the best areas on which to focus. It is all too reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's failed $19 billion investment in synthetic fuels in the 1970s energy crisis.

In a sense, our reliance on governmnt solutions is hindering our progress in the fight to overcome reliance on oil. In order to realize a post-oil world we must learn to depend on a variety of potential solutions not bogged down by bureaucracy, as opposed to the solutions thus far exclusively relegated to government.

John Doerr, arguably the world's most prominent venture capitalist, told The New York Times recently that the fast developing private investment into the market towards green technologies are "signs that the multitrillion-dollar energy market [will] inevitably, and imminently, undergo a wholesale eco-transformation."

Doerr is a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the summer to invest into green technologies and, according to the New York Times, "financed 40 different green-tech companies and [by the beginning of the fall] raised a total of about $1 billion."

Doer's firm promised to revolutionize the market in areas like solar power, biofuels, electric cars -- all which may be marketable by 2009.

This is where our energy and environmental salvation harbors the most potential: in the hands of free individuals risking their own time and money on the areas they evaluate as most promising.

Some say greed is what keeps oil tycoons in power, but greed is exactly what will torque us out of the hole we've dug ourselves into. The partners at Kleiner, and hundreds of other firms just like it, are looking to make a profit. But they just might save the world while they're at it.

The greatest achievement of our time will be a sustainable, efficient alternative to oil and natural gas. History will have no room for Barack Obama or John McCain, as the capitalist Rockefeller of the green revolution will consume the pages of textbooks and autobiographies and his children's children's children will be trillionaires. And so be it.

View CBS News In