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Will disaster in the Gulf make for serious change?

May 14th, 2010

Will America rise up, change its ways and force companies and government to produce a more sustainable energy lifestyle in the wake of the Gulf oil disaster?
There has been much discussion in recent weeks that Americans may become so horrified at the scenes that are playing out just off our Mississippi coastline that the green movement will be catapulted into the forefront of American policy.
Larry Schweiger, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, has said that time is now.
“How long will it take for folks to wake up to the truth? Clearly, if there is a moment for us to wake up, this is it,” he said.
And he is probably right.
But as I sat down to write this column, I was struck with cynical thoughts that most Americans aren’t going to demand much of anything in regard to sustainable energy and alternative solutions until it hits them in the tailpipe.
We saw that following Hurricane Katrina when gas prices averaged more than $4 a gallon across the country.
Folks began to trade in their SUVs faster than Usain Bolt can run the 100-meter dash.
T. Boone Pickens became a household name as he appeared on every major news network peddling his idea that wind energy can almost immediately bridge the gap between oil and alternative fuels so that America isn’t so dependent on foreign countries for its oil.
He was sinking billions of dollars into a new wind farm in Texas. It was expected to become the biggest in the world, producing enough power for the equivalent of 1.3 million homes.
But I haven’t heard much about that lately.
So, before I went off on a tangent, I wandered around our offices to conduct a poll of where we believe America is on this subject.
Almost unanimously, people believe the concern is temporary — that once we have moved on to the next disaster, people in Nebraska or Michigan or Ohio or Oklahoma will forget much about what is going on with the Gulf Coast.
If it is not affecting them directly, my colleagues generally agreed, there likely won’t be a long-lasting green movement.
To be fair, all believe, however, that if this situation were to continue with oil erupting into the Gulf for weeks and months, anything is possible.
I guess the bottom line is that we have to wait and see.
Unfortunately, that’s all most people can do until this situation is resolved.

Contact Mississippi Business Journal editor Ross Reily at ross.reily@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

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