Tuesday, February 21, 2006

a crisis of confidence

Last week when I visited South Stanly High School to speak to students about peak oil I was asked why the greater powers of this country have not addressed this issue. I believe there are a number of reasons it has received relatively little attention. One of the most obvious is lack of political will. Some call that cowardice but imagine being the President of the United States of America and standing before your nation and telling your citizens that they will have to make do without. Imagine telling them that future generations will not have more but less. Imagine informing them that for the first time in the history of our country the next generation of Americans will not do better than the previous one in terms of material goods and wealth. The American people want to hear about how things will be better and most Americans have come to believe that better means more. We can (and should) criticize our leaders for failing to provide real leadership concerning the energy crisis that will materialize as we peak in global oil production and descend the backside of Hubbert’s Curve. We must however be more willing as a people to listen to the message of resource depletion and the limits to growth established by our environment. We must understand that we do not live in a fantasy world where we can simply increase supply just because people demand it. Our unwillingness to hear this message is partly to blame.

Any politician who attempts to tell the American people the truth about our energy situation will be voted out of office. Just ask Jimmy Carter. In 1979 with the country in the grips of an oil crisis, President Carter delivered a speech in which he tried to bring our energy situation into the forefront of discussion in this country. The address was entitled "Energy and the National Goals - A Crisis of Confidence”. It has been nicknamed “The Road Not Taken Speech" because Americans did not like what they heard and chose not to listen to his warning. He was not reelected in 1980. Maybe it was his pessimistic tone as he sat in a sweater and urged the American people to turn down their thermostats. Ronald Regan thought so and removed the solar panels from the roof of the White House and the woodstove from its living quarters. With them went the political will to speak with honesty to the American people about the future of our nation and its energy issues. Will we ever get a leader with the strength of character necessary to tell us the truth and lead this nation through the coming peak oil crisis? More importantly will we be ready to listen?

If you have not listened to President Carter's 1979 address "Energy and the National Goals - A Crisis in Confidence", I highly suggest you do. Audio is available here

"Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know." M. King Hubbert


Steven Lagavulin said...

I agree with this sentiment...and whenever I think about the head-in-the-sand attitude of our political "leaders" I always think of a quote that Kunstler wrote once. He said: "The duty of a true leader is to show the people the direction they will be going anyway, and then inspire them to go there."

Ever since I read that I can't respect anyone in Federal, State or Local position who does not speak frankly about Peak Oil. And if they're unaware of it altogether, I feel that's grounds to remove them from office.

nulinegvgv said...

i guess that means jimmy carter had only half the package. i'm not convinced inspiring them to go there is possible concerning contraction; and then i'll read something or even talk to a stranger concerning the materialistic nature of present day society and be refreshed by the fact that many feel we've gone too far. as a nation i fear we've become consumers to the core and then a casual conversation with someone i don't even know will reinforce my idea that americans are sick of the state of the union and are about to turn on those who are all but force-feeding us the idea that we must have more. i try and imagine each night before i fall asleep that we are ready for a change.