President Jimmy Carter Was Right

jimmy carterFor 40 years, America’s energy policy has been a bipartisan disaster. Since the early 1970s America’s dependence on foreign oil has threatened our economy, security and national honor as we corrupted our foreign policy to satisfy our thirst for oil.

Nixon failed. Ford failed. Reagan failed. George H.W. Bush failed. Clinton failed. George W. Bush failed. Compared to the magnitude of the problem, Obama so far has failed. Democrats failed. Republicans failed. The House failed. The Senate failed.

The one national leader who understood was a prophet without honor in a nation addicted to oil: President Jimmy Carter.

When Carter said the energy crisis is the moral equivalent of war, he was absolutely right. Carter could have been a more perfect commander in the politics of passing an energy program. Yet the far larger fault lies with the generals, captains and foot soldiers in a war that demanded our support, a war we have never fought, a war we continue to lose today.

Perhaps with the price of oil rising to the skies again, our economic recovery threatened by the punishing price of gasoline, our decadent four-decade program of foreign policy threatened by instability in despotic oil-producing regimes and fears of nuclear meltdown arriving again, this could be President Obama’s moment.

In 2008 I wrote a column proposing a JFK moon-shot for the fuel-efficient car. I repeat that proposal here, adding an idea first suggested by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Let’s create the greatest private incentives in economic history to bring back the drive of invention, innovation and progress and renew “Made in America” to world energy, environmental and technology leadership.

I propose that a company that sells at least 250,000 American-made cars that achieve 100 miles per gallon within five years be granted a waiver of all corporate taxes for that year; that the inventor of that car be granted a $1 billion cash bounty from the federal government, payable upon the sale of those 250,000 cars; that investors in that company receive a complete capital gains tax holiday for stock they own in that company held for at least two years; and that all workers in that company receive a holiday of all payroll taxes for one year.

My proposal only goes into effect if the 100 mpg cars are sold in large numbers within the five-year window. It would create powerful incentives and rewards for inventors, management, corporate boards, investors and employees to create and sell the cars that would bring revolutionary energy savings for the world and a jobs wave for Americans.

Brent BudowskyLet’s fully upgrade the technology at the patent office and hire every employee necessary to fast-track patent approval for all major innovations, especially energy. It is ridiculous for the agency tasked to advance innovation to be a laggard in the world economy.

Let’s have a televised Davos-like summit in Washington to bring together inventors, engineers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, venture capitalists, private equity managers, labor leaders and consumer groups to develop investment, tax and spending policies to win the moral equivalent of war that we must wage and win together.

Brent Budowsky
The Hill


  1. Tyrannus Evisceratus says

    There is Nuclear Energy and there is Coal. Pick one or the other they are the only real choices when it comes to energy. Everything else costs too much for too little power.

  2. Ryder says

    But one has to ask.. when the US wants to stop addiction to oil by developing alternatives like nuclear electric generation (which if pursued might have resulted in an ALL electric highway system by now)… who chained themselves to the gates to prevent this electric infrastructure?


    Thus the dependence on oil continued.

    When the US tried to buy less foreign oil pursue domestic sources (therefore avoiding the political pressures to be involved in arab conflicts) who is out front making sure that the only cheap, reliable source of oil is OUTSIDE the US?


    The one-two punch of keeping us on oil, and making sure we don’t develop domestic oil (in other words, maintaining an addiction to foreign oil) is all part of what progressive politics has achieved.

    It’s not reasonable to simply say “well, we didn’t mean nuclear when we said ‘alternative energy’, we meant something else” while at the same time failing to provide something else. Similarly, it’s not reasonable to say “solar” because that doesn’t mean anything. What technology is “solar”? It is merely a term for a very generic potential source… and says nothing about actual methods or use.

    Brilliant people… working hard for decades after the era of Carter, are STILL trying to find some “solar” ideas that will allow for a transfer away from oil… but nobody, and I mean not a single person that has ever lived, has found a way. The engineering is always problematic.

    Let me give you an example: I have solar panels on my home. Great. Now… if my power goes out, what do I do? Well… my situation is bad. I have no power at night. Little power during rainy or overcast days… and no way to store it. So I called the “solar” guys about this problem… and they are the biggest tree-hugging sandal wearing hippy types you’ll ever meet. They install solar wearing tie-dye fercrissakes. What did they tell me? “Dude… just buy a gas generator… there is nothing close to cost effective compared to that… a battery bank will cost way too much, need to be replaced regularly, you have disposal issues…”

    And that’s where we stand.

    If progressives want to stop dependence on foreign oil, then shut up when nuclear and domestic oil is being pursued… instead of boxing the US into oil from the middle east.

  3. James says

    If it were up to me. . . there would not be a new car sold in this country, ever, that got less than 100mpg. . . no SUVs that got less than 80mpg. . .

    Cars in the 70s got 25mpg+ – the automakers have had over 30 years to improve on that, and have failed utterly. . .

    • Ryder says

      You can’t legislate morality, and you can’t legislate physics.

      The kind of control you are talking about is exactly the kind of control that exists in communist countries and dictatorships.

      Yet ask yourself, where are the efficiency breakthroughs being made? That’s right my friend… not communism… not dictators. You can’t command progress to happen… it doesn’t work that way.

      If it could, you could simply use the “James Method” and simply proclaim that “no business will be allowed unless it has zero emissions, no cars will be allowed unless they have zero emissions, no homes will be allowed unless they consume zero energy”… well what would that mean? Utopia, right?

      Wrong. We’d have no businesses, we’d be walking everywhere, and live in caves.

      We would be living in the stone age…. a zero emissions society from our past.

      You don’t get points for destroying a civilization. And the masses would have you against the wall first.

      In other words… talk is cheap… everyone has great ideas that won’t work. I have dozens of em. Good thing I’m not the king.

      Did you know that the government had financially backed a large effort to invent powered flight? Yet it was the Wright brothers… a couple of guys that ran a bike shop, acting in their own self interest, that got there first. Government last… people first. Remember that.

      “Emperor James” marshaling resources and commanding progress didn’t do as well.

      That’s the lesson to be learned.

  4. Benjamin says

    The failure is that of the American people themselves. With a love for big cars, SUV’s and air travel we will not change until fuel is too expensive and such travel is not logical. Create a fuel efficient car and a few people will buy it. Make fuel $25 gal and lots of people will buy these fuel efficient cars.

    I would also like to know how many of these people who talk about more fuel efficient vehicles drive SUV’s or ride in limos or have private planes.

  5. Joe Weinstein says

    Likely Budowsky somehow has a unique bipartisan charm to some readers and editors, but where’s he really been all these years? He writes as if Al Gore never proposed his Repower America program. He writes as if Carter actually followed through with proportionate specifics for his slogan ‘moral equivalent of war’: the same pres who started the practice of token money and unreliable short-term promotions of conservation and renewables but meanwhile big bucks for unsustainable wasteful ‘synfuels’ and other fossil-fuel boondoggles.

    Budowsky writes as if our biggest or only fix will be to more efficiently continue our dubious resource-intensive consumption and movement of people and goods. His prize tactic, super-efficient autos, will have internet-based info workers more efficiently continue to drive (usually alone) cars hundreds of needless miles to and from central government and corporate offices.

    I agree that a let’s-do-it attitude is supremely important, but it is a big mistake to assume that it will suffice to harness that attitude to matters just of efficiency and technological advance. Our existing technology already permits much more efficient alternatives, and the bigger obstacles are ignorance, convention, disdain of simple waste-not-want-not conservation, and direct or indirect subsidies not only to oil and coal but to sprawl and to petrochem agriculture.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *