This article in Business Week is both a fascinating read and a perfect illustration of why national leadership is so essential for a sustainable energy future. Many environmentalists (including myself) believe that electricity generated through clean renewable sources can power not only most of our homes and industry, but also our transportation sector through plug-in cars and buses. There is little doubt that the solar and wind capacity exists, but the major obstacle is a lack of transmission lines to transport the energy from the deserts or the wind farms to the large urban areas where most power is used.

This is where the federal government has to step in.

First, these transmission lines are incredibly expensive, and it is unlikely that power companies will foot the bill themselves for a national grid; the total cost is in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Second, and no less important, is the fact that the siting of these lines is very cumbersome and filled with extensive red-tape, which means that it takes many years to get them off the ground.

An administration that helps to both finance such a grid and to streamline the siting process is desperately needed if we are going to make serious strides in the share of renewable energy in our national energy mix. This type of work would employ hundreds of thousands of people, stimulate many local economies, and vastly upgrade America’s domestic energy capacity thereby making us more energy secure. Of course, it would also help us to greatly reduce our carbon footprint.

This is why elections matter so much.

Eight more years of doing next to nothing on the energy front may leave America’s economy and world standing so damaged that we may not be able to recover.

While both political parties have their share of bad ideas and are beholden to special interests, I trust much less the party which has spent the past decades demonizing government at every turn.