Carter's Energy Speech

There’s an interesting exchange over at The Oil Drum about the legacy of President Carter’s infamous 1977 energy speech. For my money, this commenter (who also posts essays at The Oil Drum), is spot on:

It is almost impossible to quantify the damage that this one speech did to the very real need for a modern restructuring of the advanced world’s energy systems. Such is the terrible damage caused by false alarm. To this day, that time period (the late 1970’s), that speech (the Carter energy speech) and that period of press hysteria has ingrained into my mind the absolute need to be cautious about making or accepting hysterical pronouncements of “we are running out of oil”, “by the year XXXX we will consume more oil than we can produce {you actually heard this said in the 1970’s, but of course on a worldwide basis it is a statistical impossibility) and all such claims that the end is nigh.

There can be nothing more damaging, NOTHING, than false alarm. It destroys for decades the credibility of the perhaps well intentioned campaigners issuing the warning, it destroys support for the cause (whatever cause it may be) among the most able and dedicated potential recruits to the cause, it gives the enemies of the cause needed ammunition to rip apart the cause on the sword of it’s own words.

I have always believed, and still do, that Jimmy Carter was and is one of the most honorable politicians in American hitory, one of the few men of absolute conviction and decency to ever become President of The United States of America.

I also believe that the speech he gave on energy on the fateful day was one of the most damaging speeches ever given, to the future of the United States, to the future of rational planned transition to a modern energy system, and by extension, to the future health and prosperity of the world.

Jimmy Carter armed the enemies of modern energy, he destroyed the credibility of those who knew the need for change and modernization was real and imperative, and he drove a generation away from taking seriously one of the most serious issues of our era. No enemy could have done as much damage to the cause of a real humane transition away from our enslavement to fossil fuel as this friend of the cause Jimmy Carter did by way of a poorly researched, poorly thought out false alarm. His hysteria helped waste a third of a century.

Any cautionary lessons here for climate catastrophists? Will people be making similar observations about the climate crisis in thirty years?

2 Responses to “Carter's Energy Speech”

  1. Steve Bloom says:

    Next, Rachel Carson?  I mean, who else to blame for the high chemical loads in our bodies?  If only she waited a few more decades and made a better case…

    Keith, buying into this sort of wacky simplistic argument is a low point even for you.

    I’ll do just one:  If it was a false alarm, in what sense can it be true that a third of a century was wasted?

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    I’ll see if I can top this “low point” for you soon.

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