There’s nothing like going to a college campus to remind you about what’s really at stake. The University of St. Thomas Students for Sustainability invited me to the campus to talk about global warming. Lois Quam, National Wildlife Federation Board member and founder of Tysvar, also was there to talk about why the new green economy is the economic opportunity of our lifetime.

Congress first passed legislation mentioning the need to address climate change in 1975 — more than a generation ago. The bill authorized and directed a “coordinated national program relating to climate … and required an annual report to Congress that would describe man’s effect on climate.” In 1975!

A few days later, I read in Juliet Eilperin’s article Democrats May Ease Bill’s Emissions Rules that Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking minority member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted “his side” wants to “put compliance off as long into the future as possible” and is working with conservative Democrats to do just that.

As long as possible? I’d say 34 years is long enough.

To all those obstructionists, I ask you, What are you are waiting for? Why wait to unleash American business and the entrepreneurial spirit to provide these students and millions of other Americans good paying jobs? Why wait to invest in clean energy that won’t threaten the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat? Why wait until more plants and wildlife are on the brink of extinction? Why wait to make the U.S. a global leader in clean energy technologies?

Enough of the waiting. Americans are done with the status quo. They want investments in clean energy and they want it now. It’s time to end the partisan division that leads lawmakers blindly down a path of inaction. It’s time to believe in American business and the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s time to believe that Americans will do what is necessary when the time requires it. And the time is now.

It’s time for comprehensive climate and energy legislation that caps carbon pollution, improves our economy, our security and the health of our planet.

We might not know precisely how we will get there – but that shouldn’t be an excuse to do nothing. Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, addressed the National Wildlife Federation’s 73rd Annual Meeting last week. Hendricks noted that when President Kennedy made his call to put a man on the moon, we didn’t have the technology to get there. But eight years later, Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon. And the average age in the control room that day was 26. Which means, as Hendricks pointed out, those engineers and computer technicians were 18 when they heard the call.

They were inspired to go into science, and engineering and technology. They heard a vision and wanted to be part of building it. The students at University of St. Thomas, and every other college and university in America need to have the opportunity to be part of building the clean energy economy, and they should have the right to inherit a planet not fundamentally different than the one we have enjoyed.

House members now working on the climate and energy legislation shouldn’t stand in their way of building the new clean energy economy. We’ve wasted 34 years. Let’s not waste one more day. Go to and find out what you can do.

Published: May 6, 2009