Poster of Uncle Sam pointing, with the words I Want You below the image.

I want you to be responsible

I was reading an article a friend posted to her Facebook status a week ago by author Thomas L. Friedman. In the article, Friedman quoted a letter that his friend, Mark Mykleby, wrote to the editor of The Beaufort Gazette in South Carolina. It really put things into perspective for me, and while I have spent most of my summer trying to find my place here at the Department of Energy, this letter helped bring me back to basics and reminded me how much the little things count on this road to clean energy:

"I'd like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn't BP's or Transocean's fault. It's not the government's fault. It's my fault. I'm the one to blame and I'm sorry. It's my fault because I haven't digested the world's in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn't do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn't do it; if the current economic crisis didn't do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. 'Citizen' is the key word. It's what we do as individuals that count…Government's role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans… . Here's the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I'm sorry. I haven't done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V. Mark Mykleby."

When I read this article, it made me think, can the government count on consumers to make the right choice before more disaster happens? And what happens if we don't? Being an energy-conscious citizen doesn't mean buying a hybrid vehicle and basking in our own smog. In fact, becoming independent of fossil fuels does not start with a purchase at all, it starts with conservation. Is it too inconvenient for us as a people to unplug appliances not in use, change out inefficient light bulbs, or maybe use one light instead of two?

Riding a bike is an option for some employees and almost every student. However, if this idea of riding a bike to work or class seems too romantic, try a bus. The oil spill should be a rude awakening to us citizens. The change will be hard for us; breaking old habits is hard to do and I admit I am not always the most energy-conscious person. We should always suffer an inconvenience before we suffer the loss of a life, human or not.

I believe the answer to my question is yes. When confronted with a problem, Americans must take pride in finding the right solution and not just the convenient one. However, Americans must realize that this is a problem that needs a solution now, not at its precipice. Take pride in loving the only planet we have; it is not wrong to concern yourself with global problems. Remember, SOLUTION BEFORE PRECIPICE!

Sean Large is a Florida State Seminole interning with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.