Have you forgotten what real leadership -- and real straight talk -- look and sound like? Well here's a refresher course. Back in 1977 much maligned, President Jimmy Carter, showed genuine leadership and political courage. Following the Arab oil boycott of 1973 Carter took a cold look at world oil supplies and declared them an emergency just waiting to happen. He laid out his vision and his proposed solutions in a prime time television address.
I was only going to include snippets from that speech, until I began reading it. Carter was prophetic and, like most prophets, ignored. Read this thing and try if can to tell me where Carter got it wrong in 1977. Send it to all the smug conservatives you know who like to use Carter as the quintessential liberal boogieman.. you know, the guy who "gave away the Panama Canal." (Which, we all know now, turned out to be precisely the international disaster conservatives predicted -- ah, not.)
(President Jimmy Carter delivered this televised speech on April 18, 1977.)
Tonight I want to have an unpleasant talk with you about a problem unprecedented in our history. With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. The energy crisis has not yet overwhelmed us, but it will if we do not act quickly.
It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse through the rest of this century.
We simply must balance our demand for energy with our rapidly shrinking resources. By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.
Two days from now, I will present my energy proposals to the Congress. Its members will be my partners and they have already given me a great deal of valuable advice. Many of these proposals will be unpopular. Some will cause you to put up with inconveniences and to make sacrifices.
The most important thing about these proposals is that the alternative may be a national catastrophe. Further delay can affect our strength and our power as a nation.
Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.
I know that some of you may doubt that we face real energy shortages. The 1973 gasoline lines are gone, and our homes are warm again. But our energy problem is worse tonight than it was in 1973 or a few weeks ago in the dead of winter. It is worse because more waste has occurred, and more time has passed by without our planning for the future. And it will get worse every day until we act.
The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation's independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce.
We must look back in history to understand our energy problem. Twice in the last several hundred years there has been a transition in the way people use energy.
The first was about 200 years ago, away from wood -- which had provided about 90 percent of all fuel -- to coal, which was more efficient. This change became the basis of the Industrial Revolution.