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Energy Independence Is Nation’s Most Elusive Technological Goal

June 18, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Of all the technological missions identified and pursued by the United States none has been as much of an abject failure as achieving energy independence. A nation that at various historic inflection points crossed the nation with a unified rail line, developed the most powerful bombs ever seen in the Manhattan Project, and sent men to the moon with the Apollo program, has been consistently unable to summon the national will to close the gap between the energy it uses and the energy it produces.
On Tuesday, President Obama was the latest American leader to call on the nation to “embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.” But as the compendium of quotes below attests, that goal has consistently eluded American presidents for decades:

Of all the technological missions identified and pursued by the United States none has been as much of an abject failure as achieving energy independence. A country that at various historic inflection points crossed the nation with a unified rail line, developed the powerful bombs in the Manhattan Project that ended World War Two, and sent men to the moon with the Apollo program, has been consistently unable to close the gap between the energy it uses and the energy it produces.

American-Energy-Imports-and-Exports-Since-1950s_v2

Choice and mobility represent the central values of the American way of life. American allegiance to those two ideas is so powerful that assuring our energy supply has been deemed by the public and policymakers to be more significant than controlling where it comes from. The insatiable American appetite for energy, particularly oil, has made the United States more dependent on foreign supplies than any time in the nation’s 234-year history.

American-Energy-Consumption-Since-the-Declaration-of-Independence

On Tuesday, President Obama was the latest American leader to call on the nation to “embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.” But as the compendium of quotes below attests, that goal has consistently eluded American presidents that pursued it:

200obama

“For decades, we have known the days of cheap and accessible oil were numbered…. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.”
- President Barack Obama (June 15, 2010)

200bush2

“This country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.”
- President George W. Bush (January 31, 2006)

200clinton

“We need a long-term energy strategy to maximize conservation and maximize the development of alternative sources of energy.”
- President Bill Clinton (June 28, 2000)

200bush1

“There is no security for the United States in further dependence on foreign oil.”
- President George H. Bush (August 18, 1988)

200reagan

“We will continue supportive research leading to development of new technologies and more independence from foreign oil.”
- President Ronald Reagan (February 18, 1981)

200carter

“This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation.”
- President Jimmy Carter (July 15, 1979)

200ford

“I am recommending a plan to make us invulnerable to cutoffs of foreign oil. … [a] new stand-by emergency programs to achieve the independence we want…”
- President Gerald Ford (January 15, 1975)

200nixon

“Let us set as our national goal, in the spirit of Apollo, with the determination of the Manhattan Project, that by the end of this decade we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy source.”
- President Richard Nixon (November 7, 1973)

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4 Responses to “Energy Independence Is Nation’s Most Elusive Technological Goal”

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  1. | Modeshift says:

    [...] President Obama’s pursuit of energy independence has described specific steps to make the transition to a clean energy economy, but never specified a timetable or a deadline. There’s a reason for that, as John Stewart astutely pointed out this week on The Daily Show. Seven presidents before Obama, starting with Richard Nixon, had done just that and came up with zilch. [...]

  2. [...] President Obama’s Oval Office address on Tuesday, during which he called for a new “national mission” to achieve energy independence, did not include any specific target dates or goals. There’s a reason. Seven presidents before him, starting with Richard Nixon, had done just that and came up with zilch. [...]

  3. [...] Not since President Jimmy Carter delivered his famous and perceptive April 1977 address, during which he asserted that solving the energy crisis was the “moral equivalent of war,” has an American leader staked so much political credibility on a new national energy policy. And as energy historians are quick to note, none of President Obama’s successors, starting with President Nixon, achieved anything close to the alternative energy goals they pursued. [...]

  4. [...] The unscripted outburst came eight days after the president delivered a formal Oval Office summons for a “national mission” to pursue cleaner sources of energy and new practices that limited carbon emissions.  The president’s “national mission” speech, in turn, followed five days after he alerted a bipartisan group of lawmakers and prominent business leaders that he wanted to “move much more aggressively on the energy agenda,”and three weeks after Obama told an audience in Pittsburgh that “the time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future.” Not since President Jimmy Carter delivered his famous and perceptive April 1977 address, during which he asserted that solving the energy crisis was the “moral equivalent of war,” has an American leader staked so much political credibility on a new national energy policy. And as energy historians are quick to note, none of President Obama’s successors, starting with President Nixon, achieved anything close to the alternative energy goals they pursued. [...]