All this talk about (and begrudging nostalgia for) Jimmy Carter and his handling of the "energy crisis" of 1977 should have taught us something.
Jimmy Carter established the Department of Energy, as a cabinet level office, in the seventies, which has been described as a "governmental department whose mission is to advance energy technology and promote related innovation in the United States". Because, according to Jimmy Carter, "...we are now running out of gas and oil", and because "...we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it".
So, in the last thirty four years*, how far have we advanced? And when did we run out of gas and oil? I must not have gotten the memo. How's that whole "government taking responsibility for it" thing working out?
The Big Government types at the time, figured yet another government bureaucracy, accompanied by shoveling tons of money into finding a solution would be our salvation. After over forty years, are we any closer to finding a viable alternative to fuel our economy and our society other than coal and oil?
As has been pointed out countless times, neither solar nor wind is economically feasible, nor has the capacity to provide for our country's energy needs 24/7. Atomic power is anathema to most liberals, who incidentally are against hydroelectric power, because it involves damming waterways, nuclear because of the waste, and oil and coal, because they're idiots.
We have not achieved any breakthrough of any significance in the last thirty years*, is it reasonable to expect one in the next thirty*? No one would be happier than I if Doc Brown's "Mr. Fusion" came into being tomorrow, but does it make sense to hold our economy and our society "hostage" (to use the word the liberals like to use) to some Green pipe dream or fantasy that may never come true?
If we'd had a "Department of Lighting", back before Edison invented his marvelous bulb, I'm sure we'd have the finest kerosene conservation methodology on the planet by now. We could have score of bureaucrats cranking out memos on proper wick trimming, kerosene storage and tips on opening our curtains during the day to conserve kerosene. Government cannot mandate innovation. They can, however, stifle it through over-taxation and over-regulation.
As a young man, I was given the advice, If it is within your power, never quit a job until you have another one lined up. We should plan on using our oil, coal and natural gas until such time as a breakthrough is discovered, for two reasons:
1) It constitutes real wealth now. There is a need and a market for energy today. If coal does become obsolete in twenty years, then, how much is that coal worth sitting in the earth? It is real wealth, today, that can provide real jobs and lower the cost of energy to millions, thus increasing their standard of living and the profitability of American manufacturing.
2) Petroleum is used in manufacturing. The keyboard I am typing on was made from petroleum byproducts. Even if "Mr. Fusion" was invented tomorrow, there would still likely be plastic parts somewhere in the product, and if not there, then in other household goods, and we'd still need petroleum to make them.
It has been pointed out that the "Department of Energy" has never produced any. It has failed in its promise to do anything of any significance in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. In fact, it has done the opposite. It has stood in the way of oil exploration and production. It is said that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results". After thirty plus years*, can we now say that the Department of Energy was a crazy idea and defund it as soon as possible?
(The text of Carter's speech can be found here.)
* I originally said "forty". I was thinking 70's to 2000 is thirty, plus eleven. I wasn't thinking late seventies. My bad!
Cross posted at Proof Positive