Environmental challenges, and the dramatic changes in energy policy they will require, may well be the defining challenges of this century. If America is to maintain the kind of economic and strategic leadership it has enjoyed through the end of the last century, we must aggressively and effectively meet these new and developing environmental challenges and pioneer the new energy technologies of the future.
America can and should show this kind of leadership again. But our own leadership in Washington has let us down. Under the Bush administration, we are regressing, not progressing, becoming more, not less, dependent on fossil fuels for transportation, heating, lighting and industry, even as world markets for these fuels remain controlled by hostile and unstable regimes. After decades of progress, we are also losing ground on air and water pollution, and on controlling toxic substances.
We have to have the courage to create change, and turn our energy and environmental polices around 180 degrees. We must rejoin the global competition for environmental progress, energy security, and clean technologies. If we do so, we can not only address potentially catastrophic problems like climate change, but we can take advantage of new economic opportunities of equal magnitude. And we must retool our domestic policies across the board to make that happen, breaking through the special-interest-dominated gridlock on the energy and environment that has persisted for many years.
In particular, we should move immediately to impose a cap on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and businesses, and create a market-based system of tradable credits that rewards investments in innovative clean energy technologies. At the same time, America must undertake a national push for public and private investment in clean and renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and biofuels, and in the technologies that can make them affordable and readily available.
The Vilsack Energy Security Agenda sets out a strategy to dramatically reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy and to cut our nation's carbon emissions. It also calls for replacing the Department of Energy with a new Department of Energy Security, to oversee and redefine the federal government's role in energy policy. The reorganized department will act as an institutional advocate for innovation in energy policy, and will ensure accountability as the nation works towards achieving its energy security goals. Through this new department, America's overriding objective in energy policy will be to make America the unquestioned leader in clean energy, enhancing our national security and our economic strength.
We can do this, with the courage to create change.