Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Energy Crisis - Old News.

Hearing the debate tonight, it seemed that the issue discussed for a significant portion of it (nearly half an hour) was the current Energy Crisis. Everything that's being placed on the table to try and solve it, from offshore drilling to alternative energy development, was first suggested thirty-five years ago when Richard Nixon was president.

Most people think of Nixon as the President that resigned due to his involvement in the Watergate scandal. The fact is, he had a great energy plan, with massive support for alternative energies while he was President. Under his plan, we would have been energy independent by 1980.

From: The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 410, No. 1, 65-74 (1973):

The Nixon Administration Energy Policy
Rogers C.B. Morton

First Congressional District of Maryland in the United States

A serious energy situation awaited the incoming Nixon administration in 1968. It stemmed from the fact that the nation was, and continues to be, in a period of transition from a long era of cheap and abundant indigenous energy and neglect of environmental consequences to one of scarcity of acceptable clean fuels, growing dependence on foreign energy imports, inadequate development of alternate clean energy sources and a growing interest in maintaining, or enhancing, environmental values. Reacting to the challenge, the Nixon administration adopted an energy policy designed to ensure an adequate and dependable supply of energy to meet the country's essential requirements and to assure its prosperity and security in ways which are consistent with the nation's environmental and social goals. The administration has moved to stimulate increased utilization of all energy sources found within the United States, including those of the outer continental shelf, and to remove artificial price and bureaucratic barriers which restrict the flow of gas and oil to markets. Suggestions have been made for the extensive reorganization of the executive branch which would enhance the government's ability to perceive and respond to energy problems and opportunities. The administration has taken steps to conserve energy in its operations both as a substantive measure and as an example to others. Actions have been taken—and others proposed—to use more fully private and public funds and expertise to solve the problems of finding new clean energy sources and to make currently used sources less environ mentally degrading. Steps have been taken to reduce the regulatory and administrative impediments which slowed, or prevented, construction of needed energy producing facilities. Finally, the Nixon administration has moved in concert with other nations both to conduct research in the energy area and to discover means of preventing future energy shortages.

From the Department of Energy timeline, 1971-1980:

November 7, 1973
President Nixon launches Project Independence, with the goal of achieving energy self-sufficiency by 1980. Recalling the Manhattan Project, Nixon declares that American science, technology, and industry can free the United States from dependence on foreign oil.

The text of Nixon's November 25, 1973 address on national energy policy. (PDF document)

The fact is, Richard Nixon - the "crook", a Republican, was the first to seriously promote energy independence. It should also be noted that the Nixon Administration also created such government agencies as NOAA and OSHA. It's too bad that he destroyed his career with a scandal of massive proportions (Watergate) exposing massive corruption in his administration. I would otherwise be willing to count him among the greatest Presidents this country has seen. He really did archive much good for the country before he betrayed it.

This post isn't about Nixon, however. It's about energy policy. Honestly, had we listened to Nixon, and his later successors Ford and particularly Carter, this country might actually be energy independent already. Just think of how different things might be if oil prices weren't an issue.

I just find it ironic that this issue was important in 1973, and all but forgotten about until recently, when oil threatened to hit $200/barrel. Now, thirty-five years later, it's an issue again, and the debate is nearly the same.

It may be too much to ask, but can we finally learn from history this time around?

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