John McCain is trying to use Jimmy Carter as a punching bag. My friend Steve Pizzo points out that Carter gave the most visionary energy speech of any modern President, in April of 1977. If we had followed his advice in this speech, we wouldn’t be in the problems we have now. Whatever you may think of Carter’s whole Presidency, you’ll have to admit that he got the alternative energy idea in a way that Reagan, Clinton or the two Bush’s just flat out missed. Here are a couple of excerpts from Carter’s speech.
Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.
It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We must not be selfish or timid if we hope to have a decent world for our children and grandchildren.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.
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The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce.
The world now uses about 60 million barrels of oil a day and demand increases each year about 5 percent. This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.
* * *
These are the goals we set for 1985:
1. -Reduce the annual growth rate in our energy demand to less than two percent.
2. -Reduce gasoline consumption by ten percent below its current level.
3. -Cut in half the portion of United States oil which is imported, from a potential level of 16 million barrels to six million barrels a day.
4. -Establish a strategic petroleum reserve of one billion barrels, more than six months’ supply.
5. -Increase our coal production by about two thirds to more than 1 billion tons a year.
6. -Insulate 90 percent of American homes and all new buildings.
7. -Use solar energy in more than two and one-half million houses.
I know it’s very uncool to laud Jimmy Carter. But we sure did miss a chance in 1977.