Independence Day

If I had 15 minutes with the future President Kerry, I would not have to educate him about my ideas for energy security. That's because he already has a deep understanding of them. Making America energy independent, strengthening our national security, and protecting the environment are causes that John Kerry has fought for his entire career in public life.

And with America's national security at stake, combined with uncertain energy supplies, he knows we need a bold vision for a sustainable energy future.

Regrettably, for the past three and a half years, the Bush administration has pursued a drastically different course. Instead of working toward lowering our dependence on foreign oil in the long term and helping to stimulate energy conservation in the short term, the Bush administration continues down a path that has caused U.S. taxpayers to support massive subsidies to already profitable and polluting energy industries while neglecting development of new clean-energy sources.

Given the opportunity to share one priority idea with President Kerry to change the status quo and move in a new direction, I would propose the following three national principles toward achieving energy sustainability and security:

1. Invest in new technologies and alternative fuels. We need to make major investments in research and development of clean, renewable energy sources, like wind, solar power, and hydrogen fuel cells. New, innovative technologies already exist and are being implemented slowly, but the lack of leadership at our highest levels of government fails to promote these sustainable energy sources.

2. Energy efficiency. We need to establish tax incentives that help consumers buy and manufacturers build fuel-efficient cars, and we need to devise other incentives for more energy-efficient buildings and homes.

3. Increase fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks. We can begin today to provide incentives for converting domestic assembly lines to manufacture highly efficient cars, increase consumer choice, and strengthen the U.S. auto industry.

By pursuing these principles, we can lessen our vulnerability to energy price shocks and our reliance on oil from unstable regions around the globe, thus strengthening our national security. Second, by investing in alternative fuels and energy-efficiency technology, we will tap America's can-do spirit and ingenuity to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and spur economic growth. Lastly, as an environmentalist, I believe this new, forward-thinking, innovative approach to energy policy will provide for a cleaner, healthier, and safer environment.

An unprecedented initiative for energy security and sustainability would also once and for all shatter the perception of the false choice between a clean environment and a strong economy. Instead, such a plan closely binds these two notions together, creating a win-win situation for working Americans, for the environment, and for future generations.

This concept for energy security and sustainability is bolstered by the fact that the public overwhelmingly supports the underlying principles and the reasons for achieving this worthy goal. But even so, public opinion must be galvanized. Kerry could start doing that by putting energy security at the top of his administration's agenda, making it a focal point of his first State of the Union address. He could follow with a series of speeches around the country. By taking into account interests as diverse as the auto industry in the Midwest to solar power in the Sun Belt to wind farms in the West, John Kerry could galvanize public support while promoting pre-existing state and local energy initiatives that harness new technologies and alternative energy sources. Much as he has done on the campaign trail, Kerry, should he win, could use the power of the office to make sure that all Americans understand that energy security and independence mean that we can reach a day when our nation will no longer be at the whim of oil-rich governments, a day when we truly have a new America with a sustainable energy future. I believe the American public will listen and respond positively.

I would urge John Kerry not to back down from the bold energy plan he has outlined on the campaign trail. And I would encourage him to continue exhibiting visionary leadership by speaking out to Congress and the American people for a comprehensive and safer energy policy.

Deb Callahan is the president of the League of Conservation Voters.