In the United States we've been talking about breaking our dependence on foreign oil for decades, and the promises we've been hearing from Obama and the publicity around promising new technologies make the prospect seem more possible than it has seemed in a long time.

But then you read an article like the one that ran in The New York Times on January 12, Gulf Oil States Seeking a Lead in Clean Energy, and another possibility sinks in. The gulf states are "making a concerted push to become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy ... aggressively pouring billions of dollars made in the oil fields into new green technologies ... putting millions of dollars behind research projects at universities from California to Boston to London ..."

Meanwhile, in the dark days at the end of the Bush era, the United States is pouring billions of dollars into broken banks and automakers. It's hard to imagine how our country will come up with anywhere near the amount of cash for alternative energy that the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates are investing.

Are we arriving late to the party to become energy independent through our own renewable energy efforts, as The Times article suggests? The party isn't over yet, but if we don't make enough of a public/private commitment to renewable energy so that the proper infrastructure is put in place and the price is affordable for most people, 50 years from now we'll still be talking about the U.S.'s energy dependence on the Middle East.