SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Abandoning fossil fuel exploration altogether is not feasible for America. But significant further government support of oil and gas drilling in places like the Alaskan wilderness or the American heartland in the name of economic growth would be a huge mistake.
Instead, for our national security, economic growth and a sound energy policy, what we need is to shift to promoting industries and technologies that focus on clean, renewable and alternative sources of energy. With continued sluggish economic growth, the U.S. has never had a better economic reason or opportunity to do so.
Clean tech is a fast-growing global industry that holds the potential to fix our current climate and other environmental challenges and build jobs.
A 2012 study for World Wildlife-Netherlands by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants ranked the U.S. 15th in clean-tech sales relative to gross domestic product, with only 0.3 percent of our economy based on clean tech.
Even if the United States is still strong in this area, it is not investing nearly as much as countries like Germany and China that have been betting on solar, wind and other clean technologies to lead their economies.
If advanced electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Tesla's cars, the cutting-edge fuel-cell equipment of Bloom Energy, or other green innovations were to obtain the same levels of government support and consistent public policy direction as the fossil fuel industry, there would be little stopping American leadership in this industry.
California is an excellent example of what the United States has the potential to become. The Golden State enacted the pioneering 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which sent unambiguous signals to the energy markets that the state is serious about combating climate change and that green technology will play a crucial role in accomplishing that.
California's new cap-and-trade program will reward the development and deployment of technologies that reduce carbon emissions because unused carbon emission allowances can be sold for a tidy profit. The state has also been at the forefront of providing financial incentives for green energy, promulgated green building code requirements and set renewable-energy portfolio standards for utilities.
Achieving sustainable economic growth and promoting job creation must not boil down to extracting the last drop of fossil fuels at all costs. We must consider the long-term environmental and public health costs that come with it.
The U.S. cannot afford to invest and lock itself into many more decades of reliance on the dirty and unsustainable sources of energy of the past.
No: We must turn to clean tech
Every Monday we offer pro/con pieces from the McClatchy-Tribune News Service to give readers a broad view of issues.
Tseming Yang is professor of international environmental law at Santa Clara University, and a former deputy general counsel of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org