WASHINGTON, D.C. – T. Boone Pickens knows a few things about oil, and he doesn’t like what he sees. Neither do I. It may be surprising, but we do agree on something: Clean energy is a better way forward for the American people and the future of the planet.
We will spend over $600 billion annually on imported oil if prices do not decline, while importing close to two-thirds of the oil that provides the lifeblood of our economy. Every day we are borrowing money from China in order to send it to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other autocratic countries around the world. Not smart.
In the face of staggering prices and ever tightening global markets, some have called for a frantic dash to open our last wild lands to ever more oil exploration, even as energy experts tell us this move will only continue our dependence and have little impact on the price we pay at the pump. This is a false debate that fails to offer a vision for a better future.
Today, with the release of the Pickens Plan, we can start having the right debate. This is an ambitious plan to use America’s natural resources, wind and solar, to provide clean, low-carbon energy at a scale to power a great nation. From Texas to North Dakota, the United States could be the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, while concentrated solar power from the Southwest could provide vastly more clean electricity. Together with a major push for more efficient energy use, these renewable resources offer a real path for getting off oil, as we electrify our vehicles and free up natural gas for better uses.
The Pickens Plan calls on America to invest in a new clean energy infrastructure. It will cost $1 trillion dollars to build the turbines we need to provide 20 percent of our energy from wind, and another $200 billion for new electrical transmission. But at the price of less than two years of imported oil, that sounds like a bargain for a lifetime of carbon-free energy.
To be sure, building that much new capacity will raise hard questions for policymakers, but these are the right questions to be asking as a nation, not the same old tired debates. Investing in renewable energy will create jobs and jumpstart our economy. As we face ever rising oil prices and a climate in crisis, it is time for us to embrace new ideas.
The plan that T. Boone Pickens has put forward today is a major step in the right direction. I hope Congress and our next president take notice. It is time to believe in America’s ability to solve problems again. With clean energy, we can finally break our dependence on oil.
John D. Podesta is President and CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.