It is unfortunate that commentator Charles Campbell's recent criticism of the current administration's handling of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline was so supercilious ("D.C.'s Keystone Kops," Jan. 30). He made valid points: Wind and solar power are inconstant and must be supplemented. Their installations can be intrusive and demand lots of space. And the broader question of our energy problem is enormously complex.

However, that does not justify our failure to invest in alternative energy sources the way other countries have. A serious build out of renewable energy would produce employment that would make the promises of the Keystone XL oil pipeline look laughably small.

Mr. Campbell does not even mention geothermal, an energy source which is not inconstant. It is little used, but that is in part because, like so much else, we have ignored its possibilities, just as we have largely ignored reducing our energy consumption through conservation.

For decades, American auto makers have obstructed legislation to make truly energy-efficient cars. It has taken the Japanese and Koreans to force us to play catch-up. We still give trucks a pass. And we invest in pipelines rather than in public transportation.

For decades, the housing industry insisted on building mansions out in the countryside far from schools and workplaces. Green appliances and green housing will not offset the driving and school construction this requires.

Smart growth, like the change to more efficient autos, takes time. We should have taken serious steps long ago. And conservation must reach down to the individual citizen. We need a campaign to call on every citizen to conserve energy every day, in every way. Our current policies are only hastening the arrival of the time when oil will be too expensive both economically and politically.

Mr. Campbell laments the fact that for 40 years we have not drilled in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But if we refuse to learn from the BP disaster in the Gulf, drilling in the land of the Valdez could bring us more of the same.

The more energy we enable ourselves to use, the more we will consume. We take the easy way out, ignore the fundamental changes that must be made, and leave it to our children and our grandchildren to pay the costs.

Guy Hollyday