Tainted Oil Spill Commission Is A Bad Sign For Our Clean Energy Future

The Gulf oil spill has given President Obama a clean slate to speak about our energy policy and the chance advocate nothing less than a revolution that ensures we leave dirty fossil fuels in the past where they belong.

Sure enough, in his first ever Oval Office address to the nation, Obama tonight said “the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” But will he follow through?

If you think it’s not possible to leave coal and oil behind, or that it would mean shivering in the dark, or that millions of people would lose their jobs, you’re probably not alone. That’s the line that Big Oil and King Coal have been feeding us for a long, long time. But it’s absolutely wrong.

We can make sure our emissions peak by 2015, achieve an energy mix with 96 percent renewables by 2050, and create more than one million jobs in the process. And we can do it all while rapidly phasing out coal and oil. A new report by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable US Energy Outlook, shows how.

Of course, such a paradigmatic shift will require heaps of political courage. Big Oil and King Coal have deep pockets, and they will fight back tooth and nail. But both the recent West Virginia coal mine explosion that claimed 29 lives and the ongoing spill crisis have given Obama a golden opportunity to speak to Americans much more truthfully than the fossil fuels industries would like.

So far, however, the President has shown little willingness to muster that political courage and follow through on commitments to kick-start a clean energy revolution by directly confronting our dangerous fossil fuel addiction.

To do so would require breaking the stranglehold these industries have on our energy policies. Nothing Obama has done since taking office leads me to believe he will do that.

Case in point: The commission Obama established to investigate BP’s oil spill may seem like a good thing, but consider its members. Obama appointed former EPA Administrator William Reilly as one of the heads of the panel. Mr. Reilly is on the Board of Directors of ConocoPhillips, an oil company that finished second — just behind BP — in snapping up Gulf of Mexico deepwater leases. Surely, Conoco has an interest in seeing deepwater drilling continue, and Mr. Reilly can hardly be called the independent investigator we need at this critical juncture in America’s energy history.

But, here’s hoping against hope. President Obama spoke of the chance last night to take back America’s future from the corporate interests that have controlled our energy policy for far too long. Let’s all hope he takes it.

Photo Credit: U.S. EPA

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