Is it unpatriotic to go green on the Fourth of July?

Democrats are pushing "Energy Independence Day" as part of their answer to high gas prices. Does that make remotely any sense?

Published May 9, 2007 4:50PM (EDT)

In a press conference on Tuesday, spurred by spiking gasoline prices, House Democrats reaffirmed their goals to steer, as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi put it, "America in a new direction that helps bring down the cost of gas and promotes energy independence."

During the press conference the assembled Democrats made numerous references to Pelosi's plan to unveil a new package of energy legislation in time for July 4, which she has dubbed "Energy Independence Day."

To some commentators on the conservative side of the spectrum, the notion of an Energy Independence Day is a ghastly insult to the holiest of holy days. As Felicia Benamon gasped in the National Ledger:

Has the Global Warming fanaticism hit SO hard that now we direct attention away from one of our most patriotic days celebrated in our nation to declare our allegiance to ... "Mother Earth"?...

Leave the 4th of July alone, as a day we pause to celebrate our nation's Independence and to appreciate all that America is. It is a patriotic day. It's not a day to "go green."

The notion that there is some kind of conflict between the colors green and red, white and blue is nonsensical. But that doesn't mean that Pelosi's promises make their own sense. Bringing down gas prices and achieving energy independence is an equation that just doesn't come out right. Renewable energy does not yet and may never equal cheap energy. The quickest road to energy independence requires high gas prices that encourage greater investment in renewable energy and fuel efficiency. Most environmentalists believe that going truly green would require a carbon tax or gas tax that raises gas prices. Lower gas prices will just encourage the same head-in-the-sand behavior that got us into our current mess.

But should energy "independence" even be a goal, the price of gasoline notwithstanding? Sure, reducing dependence on Mideast oil makes plenty of geopolitical sense, as does a world where your own personal solar-powered roof installation supplies your electricity needs and keeps your plug-in hybrid juiced. (Although, the latest news from the L.A. Times on how California is bungling its much vaunted solar power incentive program is profoundly disappointing.) But the production of energy and its impact on the global environment is a global problem that cannot be solved by any one country on its own. Pursuing energy independence in the United States provides cover for doing stupid things like ramping up corn-based ethanol, when it would likely be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to import biofuels from countries such as Brazil.

Nobody gets to go it alone in the 21st century. As Ben Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately."

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works