Hartford Courant Op-Ed written by Sen. John Kerry.

The day after Thanksgiving when oil prices reached almost $100 a barrel, it was another reminder that our country's energy policy is nothing to be thankful for. With oil prices still hovering around $90 this holiday season, many Americans are simply wishing for affordable oil to heat their homes and drive their cars.

Soaring oil and energy costs are impacting all Americans — none more so than the 27 million small businesses that drive our economy and create at least two thirds of all jobs.

High energy prices victimize small businesses twice: First, they're forced to pay more to keep the lights on. Meanwhile, their customers feel the same crunch and spend less. Without the massive resources or economies of scale that mega-companies rely on, small businesses struggle mightily under this double burden.

Unfortunately, the short-term crunch is just an acute symptom of a problem that will be with us for a long, long time. While prices may dip or spike in a given month, oil will never be cheap again. Over the next 25 years, oil consumption in developing Asian nations will double to 32 million barrels per day — much of it housed in unstable, authoritarian regimes.

From terrorism to democracy promotion to the health of our economy, the answers to our problems all point the same way: away from our addiction to oil and toward a massive investment in new conservation and alternative energy technologies

There is no better place to start this revolution than with America's small businesses. That's why I worked with Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, to do more to help small businesses become energy efficient and develop technologies that put us on a path to energy independence.

We agreed it's time to act on our recommendations and harness the power of America's entrepreneurs to change the course of history and put us on the path toward a cleaner, greener future.

The president just signed energy legislation passed by the Democratic Congress that marks the first significant increase in fuel efficiency standards in 30 years. The bill, which also funds alternative energy research and development, contains key provisions that empower small businesses.

To help companies develop and purchase energy efficient technologies, the bill lowers fees on government-backed low interest loans; it requires the government to provide information essential to helping small businesses reduce energy costs and encourage telecommuting; and it encourages lenders to reach reasonable financing agreements with small businesses to increase their energy efficiency.

But it's not enough to plan for the future — we also have to deal with the present predicament of small businesses facing ballooning energy costs.

That's why I have introduced legislation that, should fuel prices spike again, would allow heavily fuel-dependent companies to expect help in exchange for their commitment to a plan to become more energy efficient.

We urgently need to start shifting our priorities toward greening our businesses. This can and should be good for profits while also pushing the envelope of our scientific knowledge and technological prowess. For example, in my home state of Massachusetts, a company has developed the technology for a plug-in hybrid car that gets 150 miles per gallon.

Imagine the possibilities if we fully tapped America's entrepreneurial spirit.

America's competitive edge must not be stifled by the rising costs of energy. From pizza store owners to office supply companies to independent truckers, small businesses I've talked to warn me all the time that higher energy and gas prices cut deeply into their bottom line. Stuck paying rising gas and energy prices, they often have no money left to invest in and grow their business.

The truth is, change isn't easy — but big change starts with one small step. Our actions today will impact future generations. We need to think big. And we need to start with America's entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. This was distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Services.

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