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Jun. 03, 2010

Oil Spills, Terrorists, and Jimmy Carter

by Jesse Medalia Strauss

“Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk…”
- President Jimmy Carter


(Video with transcript)

Greetings Dear Readers,

On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation with the first ever-proposed federal energy policy. In this speech, he stressed above all the vital imperative to conserve our dwindling oil resources and move towards alternative and renewable sources of energy. Carter warned that “the alternative may be a national catastrophe,” a national catastrophe like the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Right now, the federal government has no coherent energy policy. The only one we had ended the second President Ronald Reagan took his predecessor’s solar panels off the White House roof. From that point on, the man who said, “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles,” would encourage a nation whose morale was suffering from Carter’s truth injection to consume more, and pretend that none of our problems exists. A solid plan for Reagan. After all, he never lived to see oil wash up on Louisiana’s shores.

No one foresaw the problems we have today with oil as clearly as President Carter. When confronted with the truth, instead of making the necessary sacrifices that would have made offshore drilling completely unnecessary and unprofitable, the people of the United States did a most ridiculous thing. They threw out the only honest man in Washington and replaced him with the ultimate out-of-touch yes-man.

But what is most troubling about our collective decision to ignore the staggering evidence that lay right before us in 1977, is not the possibility of preventing dead fish and wildlife, as well as the swift end to the careers of many fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico. By steadily increasing our intake of oil, we have been forced to import more. When we import more oil, we end up financing some pretty unsavory folk. You may know them better as terrorists.

The United States has done a great deal since 9/11. We have invaded two countries, bombed the borders of a third, created a new cabinet position, beefed up our security and surveillance, and financed research into new, more effective approaches to security. But there is another front on the war on terror. The second requires more than the brave sacrifice of our enlisted men and women; it requires a sacrifice from every one of us.

The best thing we can do to prevent a second major attack on our soil is to follow through with Jimmy Carter’s plan. Every solar panel you install, every hybrid you buy, every cow you spare, and every windmill that is built mean less money in the pockets of Al-Qaeda. You can do more to fight terror by making simple changes in your own lifestyle than by using bombs and bullets combined.

News pundits are already calling the Louisiana oil spill the greatest environmental disaster of our time. It is also the loudest wake up call. It has been made clear as day that we cannot sustain our civilization if we continue in the direction we are going. We must have a clear and coherent energy policy, we must wean ourselves off oil, and we must switch over completely to alternative fuels. I understand that is a lot to ask of the American people, that the task seems daunting and naive. But remember, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said at the beginning of World War II that we needed to produce 50,000 planes. Everyone thought he was crazy, but after the hard work and sacrifice of every able American, we did not produce 50,000 planes, we produced 100,000.

The most powerful force in the world is a mobilized democracy. No task is too great. We must become energy independent if we are to remain the world’s most powerful nation -- if we are to remain a nation at all. The stakes are that high. We must become energy independent and we can start by demanding that President Obama put those solar panels back on the White House.

Be Skeptical, Be Critical, Take Nothing On Faith.
All the best,
Jesse M. S.

About Jesse Medalia Strauss

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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