>Vision Problems

>There was good and bad in President Obama’s Oval Office speech tonight.

The good: the President made clear he understands the magnitude of the problem we face capping that gusher in the Gulf. I’m convinced, finally, that he understands the long term effects of the oil spill. He “gets it.”

He also made clear he understands the urgency of our need to leave behind our carbon-fueled ways and transition to a clean energy economy. He made clear he understands the magnitude of that challenge, he recognizes that we have failed in this task too many times in the past, and that we are running out of chances. He “gets” that, too.

But what I didn’t hear, what I truly wanted to hear, was some kind of stated vision for how we will manifest this desperately needed change. I didn’t hear the words “Apollo Project for energy,” I didn’t hear the words “national priority,” I didn’t even hear a call for us all as Americans to actually do anything. While he said we all have a role to play, he didn’t articulate what that is.

I wanted a call to action and I didn’t get it. I want to know that we as a nation are harnessing the best and brightest minds to come together and figure this energy thing out. I want to know that we are doing something, that the government is leading the way, that the doors of industry, technology, policy-making and the halls of higher education have been thrown open and every sector of our public life will be focused, laser-like, on making this transition finally happen.

I wanted a battle plan–not for cleaning up the oil spill, but for getting over our fossil fuel addiction. I didn’t get one.

You know, we spent $22 billion in today’s money to develop the atomic bomb. That was considered a national priority. More than 30 laboratories in three countries were involved, all to develop a massive killing mechanism.

In 1961 a president told Congress he had a vision of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. From that vision was launched the Apollo Program, perhaps the greatest achievement of the modern era.

We can do big things, but we need a big vision and we need a leader to give us this challenge. The fact that President Obama did not do any of these things worries me. It’s as if he’s taking a backseat, hoping Congress will do the dirty work — it’s the healthcare bill all over again. He wants something done, but he hasn’t said exactly what, he hasn’t given specifics or deadlines. He hasn’t presented his vision.

I know President Obama has that vision. I have seen hints of it in the past, in previous speeches, and during the presidential campaign. Why oh why is he not sharing his vision with us?

Our clean energy future presents some unique challenges. Unlike the Apollo Program or the Manhattan Project, there are very powerful, wealthy and firmly established forces fighting every modest step made in that direction. This means our clean energy messaging needs to be very clear, very profound, and very powerful. It’s not enough to say “The time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” We need to know what that means, what it will look like, and what it will take to get there. We need to know what those first steps will be and what are the benchmarks. We need to be sold on a vision so we can share it.

Mr. President, we need leadership. The battle isn’t just in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s in the Houston offices of ExxonMobil and the Wichita, Kansas offices of Koch Industries. You will need us to carry your vision forward. Please share it with us.


Filed under energy future, Gulf oil spill, President Barack Obama

11 responses to “>Vision Problems

  1. >I saw glimpses of that vision in his call for investment in green jobs. His call for changing the way we create energy. Calling on private industry to create the needed momentum to compete on the world stage. He mentioned those who favored more efficient buildings amongst many other basic approaches including expanding renewable energy. He said the only plan he would not accept would be inaction. The idea that the needed response to this call to action was somehow too great. Too overwhelming.I'm seeing powerful leadership. He was trying to motivate us to respond in kind to the unprecedented urgency of these times. The worst ecological disaster of our time.When Obama took office, the ship of state was flying pretty low already. I, for one, am glad that he is at the helm.

  2. >Well, I'm glad he's at the helm instead of the alternative. But I want more forceful action. It's not enough to just say "go do it, figure it out." This is a monumental task, it will require a monumental effort. There's going to need to be some organization and effort on the state and local level, we will need universities and colleges doing their part, there will need to be a WPA-like effort to rebuild the electrical grid, to build EV fueling stations, to retrofit and reinsulate our homes and businesses. Heck, we waste more energy in a year than is in all of ANWAR.We need a MOVEMENT and we need someone to lead that movement. It's not going to be the president.

  3. >I think we will miss a considerable opportunity to move us forward dramatically. I agree, SoBeale, that there needs to be a clarion call for change, political climate be damned. Clearly the Republicans have no answers as evidenced by Michael Steele's remarks about the speech, it was far more cynical and vacuous than I had expected. His accusation of "appallingly arrogant political calculus" rings hollow. Steele says Obama should be giving "real and honest solutions" for the people of the Gulf coast (quotes taken from AP story) and yet all I hear are the chirp of crickets coming from the Republican side.Frankly this is the type reaction that should have the president throwing the gauntlet down. If there's some ass kicking to do, let it be some Republicans ones demanding that they become part of the solution too.Still, the speech was too low key than the critical problem we face, weaning ourselves from our addiction to oil. We have the minds to get this done, he needs to be calling for the will to do it.

  4. >Yes, Joe M you are absolutely correct. It's as if he's sorta abrogating himself of any responsibility. "Y'all go figure it out." No. He needs to LEAD us through this challenge.I don't get it. I guess presidentin' is harder work than he thought.

  5. >My email to the White House post-speech..Dear Mr President:Regarding your speech…"Pray for courage…" ??How about SHOW some courage and quit begging for it. In another time of greater risk to us all, a president *with* courage said all we have to fear is fear itself.If you feel you don't have the courage to tackle this environmental catastrophe, resign. Incompetence and half-measures will not get the job done. Decide just who it is you work for: us or them. This isn't some corporate boardroom and you aren't some corporate go-fer and the people of this country aren't some 'little shareholders' who can be ignored. If you don't have the courage to get the job done, don't lay it off on us. WE have the courage. We have the will. Its *you* who are lacking. Best regards,PS – Get rid of Ken Salazar and Allen. The first thing to go in any conflict are the bureaucrats who have been loafing on the job, in this case more beholden to industry than to the citizens of this country.

  6. Jim

    >Here are some options for moving to a green energy program:1. Power companies could offer to install solar panels on houses at no cost to the owner. The owner would pay for the cost by continuing to buy power at their normal rate until the panels were paid off. After the panels are paid off, then the owner would get the benifit of the free power from the solar panels.2. Install solar panels or windmills (which ever was more appropriate) on top of every power pole and cell tower in the nation.3. If you really want to see private industry jump into research of green energy products, offer a 100% tax break on all income generated by new green power sources. Also, guarantee that government facilities will purchase power from new green producers.

  7. >http://www.searchlawrence.com/_bp_spill.htmlView up to 12 different live camera feeds from BP's Remote Operated Vehicles(ROVs) working to clean up the Deep Water Horizon oil spill off Louisiana in the Gulf Of Mexico.It seems the most interesting stuff is done after 10Pm Central time….wonder why that is???

  8. >There was a similar posting on HuffPo, and my recent (if sporadic) activity on HuffPo has me poking around the blogverse again.What I said in my comment there, I'll say here.I think the problem is in President Obama's view of the presidency. His admiration for Lincoln aside, his theory of executive leadership is tremendously Eisenhowerian: he states his preferences and then stands back while Congress does its thing. If it's vaguely close to what he had in mind, he rubber stamps it instead of fighting for an agenda.I think we live in a world where the president needs to take ownership of his agenda and fight strongly for it if he truly wishes to see meaningful 'change' result from his tenure.

  9. >I think Eclectic Radical has hit on it …

  10. >I agree with Eclectic Rad, too. And I wish I'd written this post, SoBeale, instead of the one I did write…good enough, in its way, but. Too tentative. Too grateful for the contrast to the Bush years. Too grateful for what's clearly not enough, yet. I guess I'm making excuses for him in my head, hoping so hard that he'll step up big time when he judges the time to be right. I guess I'm afraid that the time he chooses will be after the November elections. I guess I'm afraid that we'll have this one four-year shot and blow it. So, the first person who needs more guts is me. I'm on it.

  11. >With regards to Eclectic Radical's comments, the biggest difference from then to today, is that the Republican Party refuses to give any ground to cooperate for the better of the country. Their strategy of "no" with no alternative proposals, leaves the Democrats in Congress (and the White House) knowing they've got a target on their back. The united front of the Republican caucus is unprecedented, IMO.That said, it's all the more reason to refocus against that. It's what Democrats on the Hill have been saying to Obama of late. It's not just the "generic" Washington is broken mantra, specifically it's the Republicans near intransigence to doing the work of governing. Call them on it. Don't fear the target on your back, do what's right! They'll put a target on your back simply because you're there. They don't care one iota for the good of the country, they only care about winning elections. So stand up to it and call for bold action.