By: Joseph Manning
Joseph Manning and Quentin James
Yesterday I had the honor of going to the White House with Sierra Student Coalition National Director Quentin James. Quentin and I had been invited to attend President Obama’s speech on rising oil prices. It was a last minute invitation and it sent me scrambling to find a way down from Boston in less than 48 hours. However, I arrived late Wednesday night, and by 9:45 the next morning Quentin and I were making our way through White House security.
As expected the event was awe inspiring; to be one of 70 people in the Rose Garden when the President gives a national address is an opportunity most people will never have. So, for that, I feel immensely grateful. However, what I took away from this event is how much work is still ahead of us if we want to break our nation’s addiction to oil, create a healthier, more prosperous nation and avoid the worst consequences of climate disruption.
Here’s what President Obama had to say: “That’s the choice facing Congress today: They can either vote to spend billions of dollars on oil subsidies that keep us trapped in the past. Or they can vote to end these taxpayer subsidies so that we can invest in the future. It’s that simple.” Who couldn’t agree with this statement? Who truly believes that a company like Exxon, which earns a profit of $4.7 million every hour, needs tax payers to give them billions of dollars in subsidies? And yet Obama felt pressured to qualify his speech by saying that he would also support substantial new drilling initiatives.
As a young person with a stake in this nation’s future, it’s frustrating to feel like we’re constantly taking one step forward and then one step back. I know President Obama knows that our rising oil prices cannot be solved with more drilling. And in fact, recent polling has showed that most Americans correctly understand that Wall Street and oil speculators are more to blame for rising gas prices than the President. Oil will always be sold to the highest bidder at the highest possible price. Therefore the only way for us to get lower gas prices is to use less. We can decrease our demand on a large-scale with money-saving initiatives that improve fuel efficiency for vehicles and invest in domestic renewable energy sources. And yet, the political climate in our country has been so hostile and the influence of the fossil fuel industry so pervasive that a future where oil, coal, and gas are obsolete seems impossible for most Americans to imagine.
So this is our challenge! We must redefine the political culture which stifles innovation in order to defend an archaic energy source. We must show the potential that exists for America to transform itself into a beacon of clean, safe, and sustainable economic production with renewable energy sources that can create good jobs for Americans and boost our economy. We must help show our nation that a clean, healthy and prosperous energy future is not only possible, but necessary to improve the lives of all Americans!
We can be the first oil free generation!