Former President Jimmy Carter said he wants President Barack Obama to be just as stubborn and persistent as he was in trying to turn the country down a new road of energy conservation and oil independence.
Carter told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that the U.S. must reduce its dependence on imported oil and use less energy, warning that failure to do so threatens U.S. national security and cripples future economic growth, according to a report by Voice of America.
Carter testified that he designated energy issues “my top domestic priority” while in the Oval Office. The former engineer gave three prime-time TV addresses and a joint address to Congress in the first year of his term – all on energy, according to a report in The Hill.
“I would guess that our entire status as a leading nation in the world will depend on the role that we play in energy and environment in the future,” said the chief executive who confronted the oil crisis of 1979 when Americans queued in long lines to gas-up their automobiles.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., added his own warning on foreign oil dependence to that of the former president, according to the VOA.
“Economically, it results in a massive, continuous transfer of American wealth to American exporting nations and it leaves us vulnerable to price and supply shocks,” said Kerry. “But the true cost of our addiction extends far beyond what we pay at the pump. Its revenues empower and sustain despots and dictators and it obliges our military to defend our energy supply in volatile regions of the world at very great expense.”
The hearing was underway in the midst of Congressional consideration of new energy legislation touted by the President Barack Obama administration. Lawmakers are mulling stricter emissions controls and tougher environmental standards -- all in a time of intense competing concerns spawned by the flagging economy.
“This is about the only issue that can be thought about comprehensively,” Carter testified, according to The Hill. “But it took me an entire four years. And I made so many speeches to the American people … that people eventually got sick of it, and Congress was very reluctant to take it up during the second year. But I kept on with the pressure.”
Carter said that the present administration should be just as hard-headed in keeping the flame to the feet of a recalcitrant Congress.
The proof is in the pudding, he maintained, pointing to the fact that on his watch the U.S. reduced its dependence on foreign oil by half, from 8.6 million barrels of oil per day in 1980 to 4.3 million by 1982.
“This shows what can be done, but unfortunately there has been a long period of energy complacency and our daily imports are now almost 13 million barrels,” Carter added.
Despite Carter’s pressing for a comprehensive approach to new energy legislation, his own experience while in office was to eventually settle for less -- rather than get nothing.
After an exhaustive campaign, Carter gave in to an omnibus approach to energy legislation – a bill that among other features penalized makers of fuel-inefficient cars. The bill passed by only a single vote, 207 to 206, in 1978, according to The Hill.
Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., was on hand to remind Carter of a media interview he once gave in which he conceded that comprehensive legislation was just too difficult to attempt.
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