"the great minds, combined with entrepeneurs in this nation, could hit upon a viable plan to develop an alternative to fossil fuels that have a stranglehold on consumers."
The problem is always cost - the alternatives (have been around for decades or centuries) cost more than oil at current prices, and replacing all the oil infrastructure (shipping, pipes, markets, machinery that uses it) would cost far more than that.
Iceland is aiming for independence from fossil fuel, using a combination of geothermal energy (they live on a plate fissure, so lots of volcanic activity is available) and hydrogen generation. The country has about 300,000 people and is an island, so there's not as much to convert over and no competition from adjascent countries. It will be an interesting experiment that will allow actual measurements of the costs and benefits.
Currently, some are enthusiastic about biofuels - either ethanol blends, or biodiesel (from plant oils) - but I'm skeptical because the high-carbohydrate parts of the plants needed for this need to be taken from foods, which means more clearcutting for crops which releases more CO2. Plus fossil energy is used for growing, fertilizing, transporting, and converting the plants to fuels. There is debate as to whether you spend more energy than you get in the end.
However, there are processes that can convert lower quality organic matter to fuel - they can also convert coal and tar, which have large deposits in the U.S (and around the world), to gasoline (but that's still fossil fuel). These processes could convert a large part of the world's garbage to fuel. They also need energy for processing (generally heat), but using a larger fraction of the available mass might be worth it.
Electrical storage is difficult, because the most flexible way is a chemical process (batteries) which lose a big fraction of the energy putting it in, and another big fraction taking it out, and a slow trickle just sitting there (plus the batteries have a limited life span). However, electricity is the single most flexible way to transmit and use energy, and has many ways of generating it (from big central plants to small solar cell panels), so improved electrical storage would be the ideal replacement for fossil fuels.
The main problem is that electricity doesn't like to stay concentrated, making storage inherently difficult for long periods, and has inherent conversion and transmission inefficiencies (consider the difficulties in trying to store heat, or use it for work - about 80% of an internal combustion engine's energy is waste heat out the exhaust). The problems are known, but no silver bullets exist - only steady refinement of existing batteries, transmission lines, and so on are likely to help.
The big barrier is that infrastructure conversion. Oil will not only have to match the cost of the alternatives, but be a lot more expensive before it makes sense to convert the world's industry over from oil based fuels to something longer term, or it will take a very long time to change.