In his acceptance speech last night for the nomination of candidate for President (and bringer of hope to all humanity, or something like that) from the Democratic Party, Barack Obama issued a pledge for a ten-year plan to end U.S. dependence on oil from the Middle East. That's right, only ten years for us to kick the habit — a difficult time frame, but a wholly worthwhile pledge. But we've heard this before, right? Sure, and for some, most memorable will be Kennedy's famous desire to drop 'mericans on the moon in a decade. But we mustn't forget that, if elected, Obama won't be the first President to make such a call. Carter did it first, and we all saw how well that worked out. So is this the same crap, different day? Perhaps. It definitely will be if Obama doesn't ditch the silly specifics. Let's take a look at some of Carter's laundry list of brilliant ideas on energy policy as an example of what happens when politicians create artificial winners and losers in technology out of a quest for providing specifics. Set the Wayback Machine for 1977 — President Carter proposed a $142 billion energy plan to achieve energy independence by 1990. The plan included "creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000," an import quota of 8.5 million barrels of oil per day and creation of the $20 billion Synfuels program, which was supposed to produce 2.5 million barrels of synthetic fuels per day by 1990. All these specifics? Totally useless. His one useful energy policy, other than asking Americans to put on a sweater? Dismantling Nixon's crude oil price controls — another example of specific policy created to put meat to bones which needed none. Now let's take a look at what Sen. Obama (D-Shiny, Happy, Hopeful people) proposes:
"And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East. Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office. Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close. As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced. America, now is not the time for small plans. "
Other than an extra $8 billion dollars, we're not entirely sure what's different between the two plans. Maybe it'll be the extra few bucks that'll make the difference this time. That's not to say we don't applaud Obama for his ten-year call for energy independence; we do. We'd just prefer to see something more akin to a Manhattan Project than a rehashing of what's been done before. The Manhattan Project was the result of Roosevelt sinking a huge investment into a bunch of brilliant scientists given just one direction — build the bomb. And lo and behold, it succeeded. We kind of feel like maybe that's what's necessary now — instead of sending the brilliant brains into a room with the task of "wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels," send them in with one task, "energy independence in ten years." Preferably with a menacing tone. If he gives them specifics that reek of an attempt to pacify the Democratic Party base, it's just too limiting. Just like Carter's call to action at the close of that 70's show of his. [Text of speech from Marketwatch] Photo Credit: Stan Honda / AFP