Mr. President, BP's Fines Should Also Fund Foundation To Help Hard-working Gulf Coast Residents Toward a Cleaner, Greener Future

Mr. President, we need you to lead in creating a clean energy future for this nation that starts with energy and fuel efficiency, advances renewable energy, puts a price on the pollution created from fossil fuels, and ends subsidies of oil, gas, and coal. We also need you to hold BP accountable for the worst environmental disaster in our nation's history. Mr. President, in addition to full restitution for the impact of the oil spill to the jobs lost, impact to ecosystems, and restoration of all the devastation wrought by the BP Oil Spill, we must also ensure a lasting legacy for a cleaner, greener future.

Mr. President, when you address the nation tonight, Let's transform the Gulf Coast, to the Green Coast, and help the region lead America off our addiction to cheap oil.

In the years ahead as the ecosystems and fishing communities continue to struggle in the years ahead, as we require greater regulation of any continued offshore oil drilling, and we change our national policy, we need to help create a network of nonprofits, cities, and businesses working together to transform the heart of our oil and gas industry to the heart of our green, clean energy technology future.

How? Mr. President, in addition to demanding BP put billions of dollars into escrow to pay for restoration, require BP to deposit $2.5 billion into an independent foundation as part of the fines the Justice Department needs to make them pay. The foundation would fund environmental, conservation, and clean energy initiatives along the Gulf Coast. There is a dearth of grant makers - and hence, environmental organizations - that are actually located along the Gulf Coast and/or that fund groups located there. We need to change that.

Why? The cozy culture between regulators and oil companies can not continue. Sunshine is the best policy and solution, and nonprofits who are not dependent on oil funding - as so many are currently along the Gulf Coast - is critical to our success.

On the board of this new foundation - let's call the Gulf Coast Clean Energy and Healthy Communities Foundation - needs to be not just the heads of the community foundations that exist in the region (e.g., Greater New Orleans Foundation, Foundation for the Mid-South, etc), but representatives of environmental groups working in the region who have offices on the ground, along with citizens from each state.

In addition to traditional grants to fund research, technical assistance, and model policy development, the foundation should also employ other strategies to help create new green businesses, and clean jobs. To create off shore wind, solar, energy efficiency products, and other key needs for a sustainable and clean economy, the foundation would invest its principal in businesses and/or other vehicles - alone or jointly with cities, states, or other foundations in the region - to create these clean, green jobs.

This not only helps the fishing and tourism businesses, but also creates an opportunity for oil workers to transition to cleaner, healthier, less dangerous jobs.

Mr. President, let us not just clean up the mess, and create national policies that ensure this never happens again. Let us create a greener, cleaner future for the Gulf Coast. Let us empower the great, hard working Americans in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida to lead the way in helping end our nation's addiction to oil.

Also posted on Matt Petersen's Huffington Post blog