Today Show

Something's wrong when smog is considered normal

On the Today Show this morning, the view from atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza showed a hazy Manhattan skyline that even obscured the new tower going up at Ground Zero.

Yet, the smog didn't get a comment from Matt Lauer, who was describing the broadcast scene. We're too used to it.

Grimy air is as common as two cars per household, as common as 15 HDPE bags per visit to the grocery store and as common as a reference to the river of garbage on a Cartoon Network show.

Something's wrong here.

Politics as usual

Complacency has become part of the American electorate. Decent jobs are disappearing faster than water from a bucket with a hole. President Obama's got a plan. Congress says it's open to compromise, but does anybody think anything will really be accomplished in the next two years?

Michele Bachmann does appear to have learned to phrase her responses to questions from "mainstream" media in a way that makes her sound like she's at least thinking about moving forward on the economy. And John Boehner and Rick Perry have issued statements, while not very specific, do at least sound good. (I love Perry's catch phrase "Together we can get America working again." Heck yes!)

Issuing the challenge

All in all, I prefer the statement by Craig Lewis, executive director of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Clean Coalition, who had this to say about clean energy in a recent email: "Our success will bring unparalleled economic, environmental, and security benefits that are achievable through a sustained and concerted effort to implement intelligent energy policies."

He's talking about simple stuff, really. But it's important, especially the jobs component, and transcends traditional political divides. I believe Lewis issued a simple challenge. Something like, "Come on people. Let's make it work."

I find it amazing anybody (seriously) would oppose such a concept. After all, we don't have any alternatives. That skyline is our skyline. Those who can afford a New York City penthouse apartment can see murky air better than most.

Some oppose green

Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, says we appear to be on cusp of making it work but he believes the green energy/clean energy movement is under assault.

"Our nation is poised to enter an era where we can take it for granted that protecting public health and providing stable and sustainable jobs are one and the same. The writing's on the wall," he writes on Huffington Post.

But Brune says that's exactly why Big Oil sees a threat to its economic domination and has turned attention and resources to trying to stymie the clean economy.

I don't doubt it. There are significant deposits of "alternative" fossil fuels made more economically viable by sustained high crude oil prices. And they're domestic, or at least on this continent. Unfortunately, these deposits are more difficult to extract and could make the planet look like detritus left by Galactus. (He devours worlds and is an arch foe of the Fantastic Four. This is one of those insider Marvel Comics references. I like him because he created the Silver Surfer.)

Room for everybody

Clean energy offers a big band wagon. Oil (aka energy) companies certainly could diversify. There is likely a significant percentage of investors who prefer not to foul their nests. Why else build wealth if not for those who inherit, right? And progeny need a place to live.

The Brookings Institution's recent report "Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment" says that the clean economy employs 2.7 million workers across a vast group of industries and that various cleantech sectors have shown explosive growth.

We need more such growth.

The question

It all comes down to this: Can clean energy compete? I believe the answer is yes, even without calculating in all the ruination of pollution and degradation to the environment.

However, our best and brightest must take on the challenge. And win.

We don't have much time.

Photo: Lower Manhattan skyline courtesy