"America the Beautiful" Is Under Threat

Authors: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

A massive ecological and human disaster is unfurling in the Gulf Coast. An estimated five thousand barrels of crude oil steadily spew into the Gulf every day, threatening the lives, health, economy, and environment of an entire region.

When will it stop? British Petroleum spokespeople and government officials say it could be weeks or even months until they’ve slowed the flow of oil. A massive clean-up and recovery effort will take months and years more. But much of the damage will be irreversible, from the health impacts on cities like New Orleans, where oil fumes hang thick in the air, to lost livelihoods along a coastline that is sustained by the seafood industry.

Even then, America won’t see an end to tragedies like this one until we accept and address an undeniable lesson: what is profitable for the fossil fuel industry is perilous for the rest of us.

"America the beautiful" is under threat. “We the people” are suffering. Big energy companies are blowing the tops off our ancient mountains for coal and endangering our coastline communities for oil. Workers on oil rigs and in coal mines are being asked to give up their lives for our energy needs.

But there is another way forward.

America doesn’t have to pay the immeasurably high costs of dirty energy. We can keep our lights on without plunging our coal miners into danger and darkness. We can fuel our cars without blacking out our oceans and beaches.

Clean-energy jobs like installing solar panels, erecting wind turbines, retrofitting homes, harvesting advanced bio-fuels, and improving our nation’s energy grid can help power America in a new way. These jobs are safer for our workers and kinder to our natural resources.

A clean-energy economy will mean a brighter, more secure America.

We can only get there if we cut our dependence on fossil fuel, and invest in the future. While President Obama has temporarily stopped his plans for offshore drilling pending an investigation of the BP disaster, he must go beyond that and wean the U.S. off dirty energy, with a transition to a clean-energy economy.

America’s energy system should be a source of power, security, and opportunity.

Now it is causing the sacrifice and destruction of what we as a nation hold dear.

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