Time for innovation

Innovation has been the catalyst for America’s greatness over the past century. Especially since World War II, each generation has seen awesome scientific, technological, and industrial advances that have propelled the United States’ economy forward while changing the fabric of this world.

In the past our economy has thrived because before an innovation became ubiquitous and its initial, exponential growth had leveled off, another was already in development. Automobile production was succeeded by household appliances, followed by electronics and most recently, the Internet. However, while the Internet flourished at a blistering pace, nothing was being introduced to follow it and drive the economy as the web had done. This fundamental problem manifested itself into the “dot-com bubble” that would eventually burst because there was no new innovation for the financial markets to invest in. With our current economic crisis we are seeing the same situation repeated, except the bursting bubble is of the mortgage and banking industries. Until a new industry takes the reins of the economy, we will continue to see bubbles of misleading growth that will not be able to support our economy.

The problem has been identified, now is the time to tackle it. America needs to look forward and start paving a fresh path for our economy and the world. The time for innovation and invention is right now, immediately, pronto, forthwith, and there is an opportunity right under our noses that is not being taken advantage of.

Renewable and alternative energy is the answer to our economic troubles. Every American is crying out for relief from the burdens, present and future, caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. We are simply being ignored by those on the highest rungs of the economic and political ladder, who are swimming in oil profits.

Consider the endless possibilities of this untapped energy. Why is there no frantic rush for renewable energy innovation? Why are both political parties failing to see the magnitude and potential of this opportunity?  The first country to seize the power of renewable energy will shape global markets, with the added benefit of helping to save the Earth’s fragile environment. America is lucky. We are the only country with the scientific and industrial resources to create a world that runs not on oil, but on wind, sun, or something else yet to be dreamt of. But even now, advancement is being held back by the very few at the top of the oil chain.

Some American companies are doing what they can, out of necessity from competition of foreign companies, but they don’t have the funds or resources to truly develop renewable energy at a comprehensive level. And they should not, for it is not their responsibility to create a national energy policy. This progress must be prompted by our government because it will take time to realize the great economic benefits. Innovation can be sparked in many ways by the government, and that is a debate we should have. But there is no doubt: dynamic independent research of renewable energy is what this country should be paying for, not subsidies to oil companies.

Hearing the chants of “drill, baby, drill” at the recent Republican National Convention raises a frightening alarm. We live in a time that demands innovation and change, not more of the same policies and stale, oversimplified ideas that have brought growth in America to a grinding halt. There must be creativity and an emphatic commitment from all of us, government and citizens, to push fresh ideas forward and confront this dilemma. Further drilling is the easy answer that will not solve our problems now, or in the future.

Similar to going to the moon in the 1960s, renewable energy development is the new challenge of our time. John F. Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1962, “In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world’s leading space-faring nation.” We reached the moon in just under seven years from that speech. Think of the possibilities of being independent from oil in seven years. If America made it to the moon, we can do this.

Ben Dransfield-UM Alumni ’07