Back in 1961, when John F. Kennedy called for the United Sates to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth”1 it was a daunting proposal. He was asking us to pull together as a nation. To expend millions of dollars and hours of effort toward a common purpose. To put other national priorities aside and focus on this one monumental task. And he was asking us to do all this without promising a specific tangible benefit.
It’s become abundantly clear that as long as we’re dependent upon foreign sources of oil, our economy is subject to the dictates of nations who don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart. We can ration and lower speed limits – effectively slowing transit to a crawl. We can drill offshore and in wildlife refuges – hoping all the while that we don’t cause irrevocable harm to ecosystems already under stress. We can legislate ever more stringent mileage requirements for passenger automobiles – counting on the general public to respect those limits this time rather than flaunting their disregard by flocking to non-passenger classifications of automobiles once again. We can do all these things and when all is said and done, we’ll have invested money in initiatives that have no teeth and wasted time pursuing solutions that ultimately solve nothing.
It’s 2008 and we must again pull together for a common purpose. We must again work together toward a common goal “because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”2 It’s time to commit ourselves as a nation to achieving the goal of energy independence. To do this, we’ll have to take a new look at existing solutions and come up with new technologies. Nuclear power must come back on the table. The effective use of wind power, solar energy, lighter-weight vehicles, alternatives to fossil fuels… These are all imperative if we’re to have an economy that responds to the whims and dictates of our own marketplace more readily than to that of other nations.
It doesn’t matter if the ideas come from Republicans or Democrats. It doesn’t matter if the ideas sound like the looniest ideas under the sun. We need to evaluate them all and identify the handful with real possibility. Then we need to get to work for this common purpose – which has immense tangible benefit – because we don’t have a choice. We’ve put ourselves in an untenable position between the real and figurative rock and hard place. We’ve got the argument structured so that it’s a zero sum game where something is lost in order to gain something else. It’s time to change the game and engage ourselves fully in this imperative. We need to put some new ideas on the table and make them work if we don’t want to drill in protected habitats yet do want to drive comfortable cars. If we don’t want to pollute the air with noxious toxins yet do want to keep our interstate commerce running at the current rate.
And we need to do it right now.
Let’s generate serious discussion that leads to a productive outcome. Please add your solutions for energy independence.
1. Kennedy, John F. “Man on the Moon” Special Address to Congress. 25 May 1961.
2. Kennedy, John F. Address at Rice University. 12 September 1962.
Originally posted September 3, 2008 on The Witches of Agnesi