I realize that bashing Jimmy Carter
is something of a favorite sport for many people in our country. But when it comes to energy conservation and the dismal situation we now find ourselves in regarding foreign oil dependence, and a withering auto industry, Carter's diagnosis and solutions would have largely spared us the pain we're all now feeling.
Last night, NPR's "Marketplace" ran a few excerpts of Carter's famous "Crisis of Confidence" speech (watch the entire speech here
) , and it was striking to realize that if we'd simply followed the former president's 1979 energy blueprint, we'd not be in our current mess. Among the goals Carter laid out that night were:
--Never use more foreign oil than that which we ourselves produce.
--Start massive government investment to develop alternative sources of fuel.
--Mandate that utility companies cut their use of oil by 50%, and switch to alternative fuels.
--Give $10 billion to strengthen the nation's public transportation system.
--Drastically raise CAFE standards for US automakers.
The speech called on Americans to buy energy bonds, so as to take direct ownership in America's energy policy. It advocated personal sacrifice coupled with government action, all of which was ditched by Carter's successor, Ronald Reagan
, in favor of the unfettered, free-market approach. That attitude has continued to persist, and was evident in President Bush's address
yesterday in which he refused to prod the country into even attempting to conserve.
To Bush-once an oil man, always an oil man-the only solution is more drilling. Unfortunately, even if we hit a gusher on the first try, more domestically produced oil won't have an effect on current gas prices for may years to come. So here we are, grasping for short-term solutions to problems that always required long-range thinking.
It's too bad the country didn't follow through with Carter's plan. But his words still ring true, as this line from the speech:
"Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense-I tell you it is an act of patriotism."
For further reading on why we should have gone with Carter's energy plan, try the following articles from:
The Atlanta Journal Constitution
Cleveland Plain Dealer
See Other Side: My colleague weighs in with Jimmy Carter Was Wrong
And here's my take on why drilling isn't really the answer to the question of how to lower gas prices.