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CNN Exchange: Commentary

Redford: Kicking the oil habit

By Robert Redford
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: Robert Redford is an award-winning actor, director, producer and founder of the Sundance Institute and Film Festival. Redford also is a businessman and philanthropist and has long supported various environmental causes.

SUNDANCE, Utah (CNN) -- Today the American people are way out in front of our leaders. We're ready to face our toughest national challenges, and we deserve new and forward-looking solutions and leadership.

The recent surge in gas prices has touched a raw nerve for many around the country, reminding us of an economy that is increasingly uncertain for the middle-class, a growing addiction to oil that draws us ever closer to dictators and despots, and a fragile global position with a climate that is increasingly out of balance. I believe America is ready to kick the oil habit and launch a new movement for real solutions and a better future.

Something is happening all across the country. People are coming together and demanding new answers. A grassroots movement is gathering today to promote solutions, like renewable fuels, clean electricity, more efficient cars, and green buildings that use less energy -- all of which are exciting alternatives that rebuild our communities even as they cut pollution and create good jobs. And, when people come together to invest themselves in building a better future, we are not only helping to solve our energy crisis, but we are taking back our democracy itself.

You can see this change in many places.

In California this November, voters will be offered an initiative that cuts the use of oil by 25 percent and creates new funding to support innovation and cutting edge technology.

Austin, Texas, is leading a growing number of cities in calling for car companies to produce plug-in hybrid vehicles that can go hundreds of miles on a gallon of gas.

New Mexico has joined the Chicago Climate Exchange, pledging to reduce its carbon emissions, and at the same time becoming a national leader in creating a state-of-the-art clean energy economy.

In Minnesota they have jump-started a new biofuels industry driven by farmer-owned co-ops that are putting more money back into rural communities and lifting up people's lives.

Cities like Seattle are joining with others around the world and taking on goals for green development, while states like Colorado are passing bond initiatives for transit and new requirements for clean energy.

Recently, a dynamic new campaign launched to seize and grow these opportunities and break our energy dependence. It's called KickTheOilHabit.org, and it has the backing of a diverse coalition of organizations. Its first action was to challenge oil companies to double the number of renewable fuel pumps at their stations within the year and pledge to offer E85 ethanol fuel at half of all gas stations within the decade.

This is a simple clear action that the oil companies can do today. But it is only a first step. Many others are ready to be put in action despite industry claims to the contrary.

In coming months, this campaign, which is based at the Center for American Progress and works with partners from the Natural Resources Defense Council to Consumers Union, MoveOn.org to the Apollo Alliance, will launch new challenges to our elected leaders, but it will also point to good work that is already going on all around the country. It will illuminate efforts on Capitol Hill by those who are concerned about the public good as well as the work of a myriad of grassroots groups effectively pushing innovative technological and public policy solutions alike.

Kick the Oil Habit will bring forth the dynamic narrative of American innovation and inspired thinking. It will give everyone who believes we can free ourselves of our dependence on oil, real solutions which embody real opportunity.

There is so much we can do right now. And there is a new groundswell of good organizing and real world actions that we can take today to make this change a reality. The Campaign to Kick the Oil Habit is one way to connect to this growing movement. I hope you will join in transforming the face of America and in working to leave a better world for all of our children. I hope you will join me in signing on to this growing campaign at KickTheOilHabit.org.

What do you think? E-mail us

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer. This article is part of a series of occasional opinion pieces on CNN.com that will offer a broad range of perspectives that express a variety of thoughts and points of view.

Your responses

CNN.com asked readers for their thoughts on Robert Redford's commentary. We received a lot of excellent responses. Below you will find a small selection of those e-mails, some of which have been edited for length and spelling.

It is up to us, as consumers and citizens, to create and demand change. The oil companies and auto industry are short-sighted and profit-driven; they won't make greener options available until our dollars and demands force them to do so. Start being the squeaky wheel. "Business as usual" doesn't apply when life on earth is threatened in so many areas.
Tara, Alexandria, Virginia

The main problem with kicking the oil habit is the mass exodus that took place years ago from the big cities to the suburbs. Unless you are willing to sell your home and move closer to your job, most people probably have a 20-plus mile commute. It's not like you can walk or ride a bike instead.
Alan Schimmelman, Eastlake, Ohio

Talk about your limousine liberals! Currently, the only practical alternative to massive consumption of fossil fuels is nuclear. Wind/solar/hydrogen power just ain't going to cut it with our population booming through immigration and India and China increasing their rates of oil consumption dramatically. You can either accept the nuclear power option or just keep blowing smoke (so to speak).
Paul Ries, Westerville, Ohio

Timely comment on our oil addiction. The grass roots movements are the best chance to change direction. However, the emphasis on alternative fuels is insufficient to change the transportation picture. Investment in fast mass transit systems such as high speed trains and/or Maglev (see Shanghai) is much more promising and would change land use, pollution, emissions.
Wolfgang Kollmann, Davis, California

I live in Austin, Texas. It is a very progressive city. For instance, our utility company offers an alternative of green choice power to every Austin Energy user. This power is generated from wind and solar. It actually lowers my overall utility bill!!!
Tami Jackson, Austin, Texas

Redford might consider canceling his Sundance festival each year and think of the amount of energy that would be saved.
Ron, Washington, District of Columbia

Absolutely! This is the dominant topic of conversation within our middle-class mostly-republican social circles. Kicking the oil habit makes sense politically, economically, and environmentally. We are doing what we can and waiting for our political leaders to catch up.
K. Brown, Newport News, Virginia

I think it's about time. Many U.S. citizens do not understand sacrifice. We've become so used to "having" that we forget our current lifestyles and opportunities came through hard work, creativity, intelligence and ingenuity. I believe we are ready and capable to meet new challenges and should again lead the world in finding a better, cleaner, more cost effective way to achieve our goals. Cutting our oil-dependent strings and finding alternative energy sources is just one way to improve our lives. I, for one, am in.
Tara Spence, Washington, District of Columbia

I agree absolutely with the spirit of what Mr. Redford says, but please allow me to play devil's advocate for just a minute. While it is correct to state that new energy alternatives and initiatives will create many new jobs in our country and help the economy grow, there are still the current jobs belonging to those who work in the oil industry. When we talk about the oil industry we must differentiate between those who have earned our lack of trust (executives, CEOs, CFOs, etc.) and those who will truly be most effected by a quick and drastic change in oil production (manufacturing workers, roughnecks, etc.) These are the everyday people who work hard for a living and have built careers of many years.
Dwight, Allen, Texas

American innovation always solves problems. Henry Ford ran his original Model T on corn oil so we can recapture our independence from petroleum products through cellulosic ethanol and conservation measures. No question American grassroots ingenuity can retool our actions relative to our energy needs.
Sue, Evanston, Illinois


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Robert Redford: "America is ready to kick the oil habit."

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