Joseph A. Stanislaw
In an Essay on American Empowerment
“With the historic election of Barack Obama to President, our nation enjoys new opportunities to confront monumental challenges—especially the convergence of energy, climate change, and security. This is the speech I would like to see President Obama deliver when he takes office in January 2009.” – Joseph Stanislaw
My fellow Americans, this is my first address to you as your President. It is also one of the most important speeches I will ever make.
Our nation confronts many challenges. Our broken financial system has caused heartbreak for millions of families—you have lost jobs and homes, foregone education and medical treatment, seen your retirement funds destroyed. We are fighting a pair of wars that have consumed too many American lives and too much of our common treasure. Our earth, meanwhile, faces a growing climate change challenge. Only one in ten Americans believes our country is headed in the right direction.
Yet, despite the severity of these problems, one challenge transcends them all.
It is—at once—our most critical economic, national security, foreign policy, and environmental challenge. It lies at the heart of how we educate our children and operate our government. It is the key to unlocking millions of jobs, and to preserving and developing our local communities. And it is our way out of this economic crisis, the most severe crisis our nation has faced since the Great Depression.
If we confront this issue wisely, if we are united and determined, America’s future will be as bright as ever. We will regain the mantle of global economic and moral leadership. If we do not succeed, however, our children’s futures will be uncertain at best, dire at worst.
This issue is energy—how we produce it and how we consume it. Either we will determine the fate of energy—or it will determine ours. I stand before you as the latest in a long line of presidents, going back at least to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who have sought to forge a sensible energy policy for America. Some tried harder than others, yet they all had one thing in common: Each and every one of them failed. But this time there is no room for failure.
Previous presidents felt compelled to reform energy policy for one principal reason: the high cost of oil. When oil prices peaked, energy plans were unveiled; when prices fell, these plans were shelved. Now, again, we are being buffeted by rising and falling energy costs. We must ignore these short-term ups and downs and focus on the long term.
The threats we face today that are linked to energy have multiplied. Not only are our economic security and well-being at risk, but so too is our fundamental security. Our reliance on foreign oil threatens our independence. Our exposure to climate change poses an unacceptable risk to our communities, our environment, and our culture.
It is this convergence of economics, climate change, and security that makes energy the most important issue of our time.
Allow me to be blunt about why my predecessors fell short. They all had advisors who told them: “If you try to change the system, it will cost Americans money and make their lives less convenient, and they won’t see any benefit from it for the next five elections—all of which we’ll lose.”
But here is what I say: If those presidents had displayed the courage to ignore myopic advice, we would not be facing the daunting challenges now ahead of us. If our car fleet had the same average fuel economy as European cars, we would be importing about 3 million barrels per day less oil—imagine the impact of this on our balance of payments, on our dollar, and on the price of oil. And, the US would be the leader in manufacturing solar PV panels, putting us alongside or ahead of Germany and China.
So I will follow a different path. Twenty years from now, this is the America we will have created: Our economy will be booming, as we lead the world in energy innovation—from environmentally sound and technology- leading petroleum production, and the most efficient energy consumption practices, to more carbon-neutral power generation and green technologies. Our jobs will be well paid and secure. Our air will be clean. Our foreign policy will not be distorted by our need to secure oil supplies from abroad, and by pressures exerted on us by oil