Can we now acknowledge that Jimmy Carter was right all those years ago?
Misunderstood, mocked and maligned, the 39th president (1977-81) will forever be associated with the Iranian hostage crisis and the botched rescue attempt; the human-rights-inspired Olympic boycott and grain embargo; inflation; the infamous rabbit attack; and, above all, skyrocketing fuel prices.
It turns out that Carter was right after all.
He was right in seeking to raise the fleet auto mileage standard to 48 miles per gallon by 1995. (Even U.S. automakers admitted at the time that they could easily achieve 30 mpg by 1985.)
Carter was right in exhorting Americans to turn down their thermostats, even if he did look nerdy in a cardigan while urging us to do so.
In his July 1979 speech, he was right when he said, “I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 —- never.” That worthy goal quickly went by the board.
He was right to encourage fuel conservation by proposing a 50-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline and a fee on imported oil —- in effect, a floor for fuel prices.
Invoking the pioneering spirit of the 1960s moon mission, he was right to recommend a tax on windfall oil profits to finance a crash program to develop affordable synthetic fuels.
Carter was correct, too, in setting a goal of obtaining 20 percent of our energy from solar power by the year 2000.
This is what he said in July 1979: “You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world’s highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war.”