December 23, 2011 | Climate Change, Sustainability + Energy

Here I go – jumping into the fray on year-end retrospectives…

I believe the Occupy Wall Street movement was (and continues to be) a turning point for our country. Finally, a true populist movement that elevated public discourse around income inequality and the growing chasm between rich and poor in the U.S!

At the end of 2009 the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math among 34 nations on education standards. It doesn’t take a genius to see that we are falling behind. If we don’t invest in the workforce of tomorrow, we will continue to fall behind on innovation, entrepreneurship, job growth, college graduation rates, home ownership… the list goes on.

In keeping with the central message of Occupy, there are three things we can do to grow and equalize wealth in our country through our energy supply. How?

1. Keep it local – use only domestic sources of energy. Anything we import must be phased out, and all the money we spend on heating our homes, powering our businesses, and driving our vehicles should stay here at home. Goodbye to foreign oil, natural gas, and coal. Goodbye to nuclear.

2. Keep it fair – spread the economic benefits and don’t concentrate the burdens. Let’s develop financial mechanisms that allow for shared ownership of energy sources. Minnesota is the poster-child for community wind in the U.S. having dozens of small wind farms owned jointly by farmers, individual investors, municipalities or electric coops. In Denmark, it’s the certainty surrounding the feed-in-tariff that has allowed individuals to secure bank loans to purchase shares of a wind farm.

At the same time, share the responsibility and burden. All energy sources have environmental impacts. Let’s make the impact of our energy choices visible – not just to those who live in Appalachia or Western Pennsylvania. Keeping our sources out of view and far from load centers lulls us into thinking our energy choices don’t have consequences.

3. Keep it green. The news from Durban wasn’t good: we can’t move fast enough to avert the worst effects of climate change. At the same time we can’t continue to squander and pollute other precious resources – water, land, air – at a record pace.

Borrowing a term from a recent reader, in 2012, let’s occupy our energy future. Our future prosperity depends upon it.