04 Oct 2005 Energy Hog: A Bad Play Then, A Worse Play Now
Thoughts from Peyton Knight:
On July 15, 1979, Jimmy Carter delivered what became infamously known as his “malaise” speech. That evening he peered out into family rooms across the country, and lectured Americans for their “self-indulgence and consumption.” Carter intoned, “We’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose.”Of course, Americans weren’t to blame for the energy crisis. They hadn’t done anything wrong. The “material good” that was most important to them was a simple tank full of gasoline — such a thing being necessary to work, produce, and feed their families. They weren’t “longing for meaning,” they were longing for a leader who recognized America’s growing productivity and accompanying thirst for energy. They weren’t to blame for the energy crisis, and they knew it. They let Carter know it shortly following his speech.
Regrettably, the Bush Administration seems to be reprising this broken play.
Yesterday, U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman unveiled a new government mascot dubbed “Energy Hog.” The creature lives at www.energyhog.com. A quick trip to the site reveals its creators’ clear intent. Americans need to be shamed, perhaps even humiliated, into giving up basic daily accoutrements because an energy crunch is looming.
The front page of the site displays eight, grotesque, cartoon hogs, and a profile of each reveals that hog’s energy sin. Ivanna Hamm’s sin is “lots of hot liquids.” Sammy Swine is to blame for using “old, broken-down appliances.” Freddie (who lacks a clever last name) is guilty of harboring “high-class chandeliers” and light bulbs. There’s even a Kelvin Bacon who has a dastardly penchant for setting the thermostat in his home to a personally-desired temperature.
Soon, the Energy Hog will be popping out in newspapers, billboards, radio, and television. Bodman is also urging Americans to drive slower to save gasoline. Fifty-five miles per hour, to be exact. Slower than the maximum speed on many interstates and highways. This is a solution to our energy woes?
Hurricane Katrina revealed the very delicate balance between America’s energy supply and energy needs. There is little or no room for error.
Yet, it has been thirty years since an oil refinery was built in America. Over that same period, our gasoline use has increased 25 percent. Arcane environmental laws and the strict ideologues that exploit them have crippled our nation’s ability to meet its growing need for fuel. America simply must increase its refining capacity.
Now is a time for leadership, and real solutions to what has become an embarrassing situation for the world’s lone superpower. Instead, we have a cartoon hog.