Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Economic Winner of the 21st Century

By almost any measure, the United States was the greatest economic success story of the 20th Century. The question, then, is, who will be the great economic success story of this new century?

Among the greatest challenges facing humanity right now are energy and pollution. The 20th Century saw a tremendous boom in the use of fossil fuels feeding rapid (if uneven) economic expansion. But fossil fuels don't burn cleanly. Never mind long-term risks like carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons; we are pumping lead, mercury, and other poisons into the air, water, and soil.

Finding an economically viable, renewable, ecologically sound source of energy to displace dead dinosaurs as our primary fuel is not going to be easy. "To-do List: pick up dry cleaning, mail credit card payment, invent new energy source, cure disease, solve the budget deficit, and, if there's still time at the end of the day, give the dog a bath." However, the need is pressing and the rewards will be enormous.

If the United States continues to rely on imported oil, our continued economic vitality will in turn rely on military intimidation. To put it more directly, Iraq won't be our last war for oil. On the other hand, if the United States leads the way to clean renewable energy, economic growth will be the natural by-product.

The United States today needs leadership from the top in committing to the goal of finding a new source of energy to replace imported oil within the next decade.