BP Should Pay to Educate the Public About Clean Energy

Dear Mr. President:

Call me! (Hey, if Sarah Palin can demand a call from you, so can I.)

We need to talk. In your Oval Office speech last night, you touched on the right things - holding BP accountable for their negligence, ending America's addiction to fossil fuels, embracing a clean energy economy. But you missed a major piece: how we'll sell this new energy economy to the American people.

Truth is, we've been selling it wrong for decades. While 84 percent of Americans say they'll buy clean energy, less than 3 percent actually do. Getting them to fully embrace a clean energy economy will take a fundamental shift in the way we talk to the American people about alternatives to fossil fuels.

Mr. President, in this time of crisis I urge you to return to your roots. You got your start as a community organizer. So you already know what works! Real change happens from the ground up, within the communities that knit this nation together. Those of us who are out here in the field are doing hard, pavement-pounding work, getting out the word about clean energy and energy efficiency, and how both can create jobs and protect our environment.

You spoke last night about a "third party" who will handle claims against BP. I posit that we also need a third party to manage a national marketing campaign for clean energy and energy efficiency.

I'm taking about more than TV ads. I'm talking about on-the-ground outreach: neighbors talking to neighbors, spreading the good word, boosting awareness and demand, and getting this done! I don't need to tell you how effective this work can be. It creates real change in communities across America - real change that inspires even bigger changes, like your historic election, on the national stage.

How will we pay for this, you ask? Why not make BP foot the bill? As far as restitution goes, I can't think of a better way to make things right. Why not go a step further and mandate that oil companies devote a portion of their profits toward public education about clean, renewable energy?

Sure - your critics will raise Cain about the "nanny state" and big government infringing on the free market. To them, I say: Because of Smokey the Bear, millions of acres of precious national forests have been preserved for future generations to enjoy. And because of states that bravely banded together to sue the tobacco industry in the 1990s, my grandkids will grow up with no doubt that tobacco is a cancerous killer.

It took guts and real leadership to make those sweeping changes happen. But we're better off because of them, and I doubt that anyone who is good and rational would turn back the clock.

As you can see, we have a lot to talk about. I'm at 202-775-2040 - and waiting for your call.

Let's start working together on this today.

Brian F. Keane
President (and Community Organizer-in-Chief), SmartPower