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Monday, August 11, 2008

Apollo Is Calling

Oliver Wills

From a new Rasmussen poll:

With energy issues taking center stage in the presidential campaign, 81% of Americans see development of new energy sources as an urgent priority. Only 9% disagree.

For nearly two-thirds (65%), finding new sources of energy is more important that reducing the amount of energy Americans now consume. Twenty-eight percent (28%) think reducing current usage is more important.

At the time President Kennedy announced the beginning of the Space Race, much of the fuel behind it was a belief that America was lagging behind the Soviet Union in science and math. To win the cold war, it was believed, required a massive investment in our tech infrastructure and the Apollo mission was the most visible outgrowth of that.



Video: Kennedy Apollo Speech

We are faced again with another crisis, with effects far more wide reaching than the gap with the Soviet Union ever turned out to be. We need fuel to make our economy grow and sustain our livelihood. At the same time, we need for that source of fuel to not have the side effects of leaving us beholden and in debt to despots and robber barons, while also not destroying the planet in the process.

I think that even in the middle of an economic crisis the American people are ready to invest in a serious mission to get off of oil and find a new energy source. We’ve spent decades now in the fairytale of belief that the oil companies are working on this issue. They likely spend more on commercials claiming that they’re working on alternatives than they actually are spending. They are focused on their bottom lines, their quarter to quarter profits (recently at record levels) and not on a long term solution that might have the added side effect of putting them out of business. It’s like expecting Horse & Buggy Inc. to invest in creating the internal combustion engine. Not going to happen.

At the same time, finding an alternative to oil is not a cheap mission, and not the sort of thing likely to be invested in by a startup or other private company. Like the audacious idea of sending a man to the moon and returning him safely to the earth, this is a job for the much derided government. Much like how the Internet evolved from a military research project into one of the greatest economic engines of all time for private industry, we have to put up the resources and get the best people working on this issue immediately.



WWII Plant Workers in Sylacauga, Alabama

Instead of empty slogans like “Drill now!” - a feel good bit of marketing whose best result is likely a few barrels of oil and a few more Exxon Valdez incidents - we need to do what America has a long history of doing well, mobilizing nationally against an oppressive force.

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