Monday, June 23, 2008

Jimmy Carter-Ahead of His Time

From the Wikipedia article for Jimmy Carter:
In 1973, during the Nixon Administration, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to reduce supplies of oil available to the world market. This sparked an oil crisis and forced oil prices to rise sharply, spurring price inflation throughout the economy, and slowing growth. Significant government borrowing helped keep interest rates high relative to inflation.

In 1977 Carter had convinced the Democratic Congress to create the United States Department of Energy. Promoting the department's recommendation to conserve energy, Carter wore sweaters, had solar hot water panels installed on the roof of the White House, had a wood stove in his living quarters, ordered the General Services Administration to turn off hot water in some federal facilities, and requested that Christmas decorations remain dark in 1979 and 1980. Nationwide controls were put on thermostats in government and commercial buildings to prevent people from raising temperatures in the winter (above 65 degrees Fahrenheit) or lowering them in the summer (below 78 degrees Fahrenheit). Carter also donned a cardigan sweater to emphasize the point. (Speed limits were reduced to 55mph around this time, and tax incentives were made available to people who installed solar panels.)

Along with my parents, I watched Jimmy Carter in a speech on TV, asking the American people to conserve energy. We listened, and my family was behind him 110%. My dad bought a Volkswagen diesel Rabbit, which got about 10,000 mpg. We had three solar panels installed on the house. We installed a fireplace in the living room. We kept the thermostat at 65 in the winter and wore sweaters. We didn't have air conditioning then so that wasn't an issue!

When Ronald Reagan came into office, suddenly no one cared about conserving energy anymore. The crisis was over, and we had plenty of oil and gas. But my dad...he still cared and continued to keep the thermostat down. He still does. I inherited a consciousness and conscience about energy conservation, and since 1980 and today, it's been a teeth-grinding experience for me to watch the U.S. continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels. When we started going to war over it, it was more than frustrating.

I see articles on the internet and opinions in the newspaper about how much oil is still in the ground and how many years these reserves will last. Some people (oil execs?) urge we should increase drilling to solve today's high gas prices. They want to increase off-shore drilling and dig into ANWR. What a brilliant idea! We'll just put off the final disaster for the next generation! It worked once, when Reagan came into office; we can do it again! Like KS R-Rep. Todd Tiahrt said, "There's this romantic image of ANWR. There's a reason nobody lives up there." Why would we care to preserve Alaska for our kids anyway? Besides, the Exxon Valdez was just a one-time accident.

We're paying ridiculous prices for gasoline, not because we're not drilling hard or fast enough, but because we were short-sighted and didn't invest in solar and wind energy like President Carter urged. I know no one reads about history, but this history is only 30 years ago. If we don't read, can't we just remember? I have a better idea than increased drilling. Maybe we can finally convert to solar, wind, bio and wave energy, leaving a legacy as a responsible generation who invested in our environmental and economic future by providing renewable, resource options for our children. Call me crazy....

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I wrote the above blog a week ago, before I learned about Bush's tragic push for oil. At that time, I didn't post it because one of my objectives with this blog is not to air my rants, but to present the life of a person choosing positive options, the life of a person who wishes no ill on others and doesn't inflict any. Much of what we do is not bad in itself, but evil only because we try to make other people do it, too. If more people would mind their own business and take care not to impose their wills on other folks, the world would be a better place. In lieu of posting, I added President Carter's Speech, labeled 31 years ago, to my right column and left it to people to read for themselves. That day I posted about the mystic literature I've been reading.

With that in mind, I'll try not to rant about the oil, especially not today when I've learned that George Carlin died. Without George here to remind us how silly we really are, we might start taking ourselves too seriously. Today, I'll try to take the long view, the Carlin view, the only view that can keep me sane.

America is an excrutiatingly, young country. Because we are poorly educated in world history as a whole, we Americans forget how brief and inconstant we truly are. We are a flash in the pan. It is possible we could be more...just possible, but if we continue to pursue exploitative and short-term goals, we will suffer the inevitable end. It's not easy to be a survivor, and those empires which have done it seem to have shared one feature, a succession of great leaders with long-term vision.

America is standing at a transitory position in history as regards its energy use. I'm halfway through my lifetime and will probably die before the consequences of our decisions are met. President Bush, much older than I, will no longer be around to see the effect of his maladroit policies. We can all look at this as George Carlin would have, that in the long run the Earth will not suffer from our stupidities, because we'll all be extinct. In a shorter view, our children will probably still live in a country we call America, but it's strange to know that even in one more generation, that of our grandchildren, the country could fail, a victim of poor, resource conservation and short-sighted foreign policies.

I haven't given up hope--Bush might still be stopped, the 'new green' politics might delay him until American voters can get him replaced with Obama--but I'm preparing for the worse. Offshore drilling may go forward. We might get a new dose of oil from the Middle East. We might elect McCain and reject a future of renewable, energy resource. If all that happens, then falling back on Carlin's philosophies may be all I have left to replace the sadness and regret which will, invariably, outlast all this frustration and outrage.

1 comment:

Pete Rahon said...

thanks for the blog visit, sorry have been so lazy blogging and not translating my entries...

well i learned US got stocks of oil to last generations (on its own soil) while it continues to import from the middle east.

i just hope that soon oil will become obsolete and a new energy - much more cleaner and cheaper/available will soon be developed!