Whether or not he runs for and is elected to a second term as president, Barack Obama will be out of office by the time Americans quit seeing the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf Coast region.

It's starting to feel like he might be out of office before they figure out how to plug that leak, as a matter of fact. And that surely has to be the first priority.

In his address Tuesday night, as the president outlined his plans to hold BP accountable for the massive mess in the Gulf and his goal of doing something tangible to move America away from its dependence on fossil fuels, the cynic in me sat up, yawned and said, "Been there, heard that."

We talk a good game about becoming oil-independent; it's been something of a theme song for at least the past quarter-century. Remember all the talk during Richard Nixon's presidency about sucking it up and developing alternatives "for the sake of the country and of our children?"

I was one of those children and now have my own children.

Now, let me digress and tell you what I've done to become less oil dependent: Not much. I drive a car that's more fuel-efficient than the one I had back in the day. And I try to drive it a bit more responsibly, in terms of being kind to our environment. I don't idle. If I'm waiting, I shut the car off. And I do plan trips so that I'm not running hither and yon most of the time. But mostly, mea culpa.

The problem is, change is hard. And it's expensive. And on a national scale, it takes some planning and a sense of real direction, not political posturing. Doing it right takes vision, not just talk.

If changing an entire nation's energy policy was as easy as choosing to wear gray instead of brown, we'd all have done it. And it's not just a matter of whether we have the will to do it, either. Conversion to wind power or solar power or vegetable oil or electric cars or hybrids is more expensive, at least in the short term. A couple of years ago, when my husband and I were car shopping, we were stunned by just the difference in the cost of insurance.

It can be pesky, too. You can more reliably figure you'll be able to pull up to the gas pump as you travel cross-country than that you'll know exactly where to find a charging station for your electric car or a pump that dispenses natural gas. What happens if you run out of fuel in the car you power with used cooking oil?

Besides that, the vast majority of Americans are not wealthy, while the newest planet-friendly energy sources are decidedly more costly to adopt. A new electric car, even after the generous tax credits, starts at around $25,000. That's not an option for a large portion of the population.

It applies off the road, too. It might cost less in the long term to use solar panels to power my house, but it doesn't matter if I can't afford to retrofit.

If that price tag isn't figured into our national plans to become more energy independent and "green," then the societal and actual costs of staying where we are fall on the masses, while the more wealthy move on. It becomes one more wedge widening the gap between the haves and have-nots.

To really move the technology forward, you not only have to perfect it, but come up with a price point that's reachable for the majority.

Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at lois@desnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.