So, everybody is talking about gas prices, many times in crisis-couched language.
I want to get something straight before I move on: I am on your side, dear reader. I would like to see the US be energy independent, I’d like it to be the most energy-efficient nation on earth. I’d like to see us have the lowest per-capita production of greenhouse gases of any developed country (even though I’m sort-of a skeptic in the global warming area, I really just want the Europeans to find something new about the US to whine about).
I’m on your side OK?
Now, let me shock my conservative friends, and maybe get back a little goodwill with Southern Beale …
When it came to energy policy, I’d say that Jimmy Carter had things about right.
…OK, sorry, had to take a shower after that. 🙂 Seriously, I’d say policy-wise (on energy and energy alone) Carter understood the problem and was WAY ahead of his time. In fact, I think he could have gone farther.
Have I become a liberal? Should I sign up for my “Yes We Can” bumper sticker? Hardly. Carter was doomed to failure, as any approach by HRC or McCain would be (and maybe Obama – but he MAY be the man to pull this off, I don’t know). You see, I think what Carter’s approach represented (along with this post by Mack) , is a profound misunderstanding of what makes Americans tick.
We Americans will conserve, for a good cause. What we will not do, at least indefinitely, is hunker down.
We just don’t do it well. Yes, there was rationing during WWII. But my grandpa used to tell me stories. People whined and complained the whole time. People cheated when they could get away with it. Had the war gone on another year, there probably would have been outright rebellion.
I think that what turned my generation off most about Carter was the feeling of hunkering down that flowed though all of his policies, not just his energy policies. I remember the whole misery index thing, and the “malaise”.
Remember when he said this? “I think it’s inevitable that there will be a lower standard of living than what everybody had always anticipated… The only trend is downhill.”
You just don’t say that kind of stuff to Americans. Only people who don’t understand Americans (individually and corporeally) say things like that.
Now, I have recently learned that a majority of bloggers are pessimists, but I can tell you from a lifetime’s worth of experience and layman’s study that the majority of Americans are optimists. Heck, I’d go so far to say that the majority of us are dreamers.
How do I know? Think about it. I don’t care what Michael Savage says, people do NOT emigrate to America to get on the dole. Britain, Germany and France may have their share of that kind of immigrant, but that’s a fairy tale here. Have you ever spoken to a first generation American? They are dreamers, every darned last one of them.
I’ve said it before: America is an optimistic country because that’s where all the optimists went. And it’s in our national DNA. Yes, even in the poorest neighborhoods – I’ve spent my fair share of time in fellowship with those in poverty (albeit those who are overtly Christian and filed with a certain kind of “joy”) – I hear more optimism than I’ve ever heard in a crowd of college aged suburban kids.
That’s why I believe in American exceptionalism. NOT that there is something morally superior about our country, or that God blesses us more than other nations. I think America is exceptional because the majority of its people are optimists and dreamers.
Now, this national character causes us to make some profound blunders from time to time, but it also means that we, as a people, will bravely dare instead of…well, hunkering down.
We alway eventually rebel against walls and ceilings and fences. Always. I love that about America.
So, you want energy sustainability, energy independence, lowering of greenhouse gases? Do not approach the problem as a problem, but a contest. Americans will sacrifice ANYTHING in the name of winning a contest.
The space race is a good example. Americans normally do not shine well to runaway government spending, and there was a little complaining at the time, but the idea of BEATING the Russians to the moon caused the people to overlook differences over the insane spending that was neccessary to get to the moon. To this day, we still consider it a good investment, mainly because, well, we beat the Russians.
The Russians are still pretty good bad guys, but I think that we need new villians if we are going to come together and get energy independent. And, the middle eastern countries are not powerful enough to be boogeymen (not to mention the fallout from declaring a cold war on Islamic countries).
No, if I were the president, I would name the Chinese the enemy, and I would couch a goal of energy independence as THE way we could kick Chinese ass. One, China really is the biggest long-term threat to the superiority of the US on the world stage. And two, the people that run the country are very, very bad guys.
Finally, if America were to become the most fuel efficient on earth, we would have an economic advantage over the Chinese (they have fuel costs, too) that would far outweigh their advantage in labor costs. If we want to stay number one, we need an advantage. Energy indepenence is it.
Have a goal? The answer with Americans is to ALWAYS appeal to their optimism and competitive instincts. Asking them to hunker down is just a good way to lose elections over and over again.