In the days leading up to the State of the Union address, President George W. Bush has signaled that policies to reduce the United States' oil use will be prominently featured in the speech. Such an initiative is welcome, according to Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, so long as it takes real and not illusory action.
"The president has a tremendous opportunity to lead our nation away from its destructive dependence on oil," Profeta said. "Both sides of the political spectrum have been rallying around our need to turn away from this unstable platform for our economy. We now need the leadership from the top."
Profeta also noted, however, that during the past three decades U.S. presidents have promised to shift away from petroleum use with little success. Such failures have been the result of the fear that real action would cause too much political pain.
"Our elected officials, with some justification, are afraid of what might happen in the election after they clamp down on U.S. oil usage," Profeta said. "But the pain we will feel if we do not act and suffer a real oil crisis will be much worse. The president will accept this challenge by featuring the issue in his speech tonight; now he must make the hard decisions necessary to meet it."
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The Nicholas Institute is a nonpartisan applied policy institute, founded last year, to bring the scholarly resources and faculty expertise of Duke University to decision makers in environmental policy. For more information about the institute, visit http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/institute/about.html.