Graham, Kerry, Lieberman: “Every day, we spend nearly $1 billion to sustain our addiction to foreign energy sources and we ship Americans’ hard earned dollars overseas, some of which finds its way to extremist or terrorist organizations.”
Recent events underscore the need for the bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill, which is key to maintaining and improving U.S. energy and national security (see “EIA: Clean air, clean water, clean energy jobs bill would make America more energy independent, cutting U.S. foreign oil bill $650 billion through 2030, saving $5,600 per household“).
Yesterday, Meet the Press focused on the failed effort to blow up an airline on Christmas Day. One exchange was especially illuminating (transcript here)
MR. GREGORY: Doris, you’re familiar with writing long and wonderful volumes of history. And if the war on terror, if chapter one was written by President Bush, now it’s chapter two and beyond; and it’s still very, very complicated, an entire decade really defined by, by terrorist acts at the front end and at the back end, an attempted act at the back end. So much different than the wars we have fought in our past.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, as always, provided a crucial historical perspective:
MS. GOODWIN: True. But I think there are certain lessons, even though the war on terror is a war about individuals, loose organizations, it’s not countries, there aren’t going to be treaties. We’ve learned things from other wars that I still think are valid here. Number one, you have to have allies on your side, and I think that’s what the Obama administration has begun to do. I mean, after we made the announcement about the Afghan escalation, NATO put in 7,000 troops. That showed that some work had been done at that point. I also keep thinking that somehow what we really missed in the beginning of this decade on the war on terror, what would have happened right after September 11th if President Bush had called for independent–a Manhattan Project for independence from Middle Eastern oil? What if he’d called for a lot more people to join the Army? We wouldn’t have had these same soldiers going back three and four times. What if we’d had a tax increase, as we’ve done in every other war, to fight a war? We wouldn’t be facing the deficits right now. So I think even though it’s a different war, the need to mobilize the spirit and the energy of the American people, so it’s not just our soldiers fighting those wars alone over there, is still relevant in history’s terms.
The Manhattan project of course was not a long-term basic R&D effort, which is how some people seem to use the analogy. It was a staggeringly massive engineering project aimed at rapidly developing — and, more importantly, deploying — a very specific military technology, part of an even bigger effort to deploy technology, as I discuss in the conclusion to my book:
This national (and global) re-industrialization effort would be on the scale of what we did during World War II, except it would last far longer. “In nine months, the entire capacity of the prolific automobile industry had been converted to the production of tanks, guns, planes, and bombs,” explains Doris Kearns Goodwin in her 1994 book on the World War II homefront, No Ordinary Time. “The industry that once built 4 million cars a year was now building three fourths of the nation’s aircraft engines, one half of all tanks, and one third of all machine guns.”
The scale of the war effort was astonishing. The physicist Edward Teller tells the story of how Niels Bohr had insisted in 1939 that making a nuclear bomb would take an enormous national effort, one without any precedent. When Bohr came to see the huge Los Alamos facility years later, he said to Teller, “You see, I told you it couldn’t be done without turning the whole country into a factory. You have done just that.” And we did it in under five years.
Now, of course, the government can’t turn the whole country into a factory — the private sector is crucial to this “enormous national effort, one without any precedent” — one aimed at deploying low-oil, low-carbon commercial products on a large scale. And that’s where there is a bipartisan realization that the key to energy independence is the climate and clean energy jobs bill as Senators Graham (R-SC), Kerry (D-MA), Lieberman (I-CT) spelled out last month in their “Framework for Climate Action and Energy Independence in the U.S. Senate”:
Carbon pollution is altering the earth’s climate. The impacts have already been seen and felt throughout our country and around the world….
This document outlines the principles and guidelines that will shape our ongoing efforts to develop comprehensive climate change and energy independence legislation….
We believe a near term pollution reduction target in the range of 17 percent below 2005 emissions levels is achievable and reasonable, as is a long term target of approximately 80 percent below 2005 levels….
Securing energy independence. We find ourselves more dependent on foreign oil today than any other time in our nation’s history, and that is unacceptable. Every day, we spend nearly $1 billion to sustain our addiction to foreign energy sources – and we ship Americans’ hard earned dollars overseas, some of which finds its way to extremist or terrorist organizations. Presidents and politicians have bemoaned this fact for decades; and now is the moment when we can – and must – break that habit. By spurring the development and deployment of new clean energy technologies and increasing our supply of domestically produced oil and natural gas on land and offshore, our legislation will ensure America’s energy security. We will do so in a way that sends money back to the states that opt to drill and also provides new federal government revenues to advance climate mitigation goals. We will also encourage investments in energy efficiency because we believe that consuming less power will help keep energy bills down and simultaneously extend the life of our domestic energy resources. Finally, maintaining the ability to refine petroleum products in the United States is a national security priority. It is our belief that we can preserve our refining capacity without sacrificing our environmental goals. If energy independence is to be a priority, we must keep the entire energy cycle right here at home.
This is also no ordinary time. This year we’ll see whether we have ordinary — or extraordinary — leaders