Oil Spewing in the Gulf: Now Is the Time for the National Renewable Energy Trust

May 25, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

The disastrous oil spill in the Gulf is assuming near biblical proportions, destroying large swaths of the environment and the livelihood of thousands upon thousands of our fellow citizens. The disaster has exacerbated our complete loss of trust in the oil industry to develop our natural resources, or our national patrimony on federal lands or at sea in a way that benefits all Americans rather than simply the bottom line of the oil companies. As presently constituted the oil/concession system itself is an abomination that has benefited no one but the oil companies at great cost to the nation as a whole. As to the environmental expense of an industry as currently constituted, one need go no further than the front page of any newspaper on this day.

It is long past time that the nation's citizens reclaim their national patrimony, the oil, gas and shale oil deposits on Federal lands and the Continental Shelf. The revenues from oil and gas deposits should be channeled toward developing alternative energy sources as a cornerstone of a viable program for breaking our increasingly dangerous dependency on fossil fuels.

Such a program could be modeled after the world's third largest energy exporter (after Saudi Arabia and Russia), Norway's Petroleum Directorate. The stated objective of the Directorate is to create the greatest value for Norwegian society from Norway's oil and gas deposits. This has been accomplished safely with enormous benefits to all Norwegians.

We could do the same by creating a National Renewable Energy Trust to explore and develop in a viable and safe way to harvest energy deposits on national lands and the Continental Shelf. Such a program would be a boon to the nation, especially if proceeds were dedicated to a massively funded alternative energy program.

As a nation we are not without examples of major government initiatives paralleling the private sector. In the depth of the Depression President Roosevelt, with courage and imagination, sought different solutions and different thinking to deal with the crippling economic conditions facing the nation. He asked Congress to mandate the creation of a "corporation clothed with the power of government but possessed with the flexibility and initiative of private enterprise." On May 18, 1933 the Congress passed the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) to revitalize the economically devastated Tennessee Valley in power generation, river navigation, flood control, reforestation and erosion control. The TVA's success in all these areas was and continues to be outstanding. To this day the TVA pursues an aggressive clean air program and is on track to meet its commitments to achieve 80-85 percent of 1977 sulfur dioxide emission levels by the end of this year. The TVA has consistently aimed to set a standard for public responsibility against which private companies could be measured.

Another example of "hands on government" in times of national need: During World War I the nation's railroads were nationalized and administered by the U.S. Railroad Administration to great effect, making a major contribution to the war effort.

The National Petroleum Directorate is a source of particular pride to the Norwegian people. Isn't it time for us to harness our national patrimony for the nation's and future generations' well being? The time for a National Renewable Energy Trust is now!