I was thinking recently about how different the world would be if Al Gore had won (well, he did win, he got the majority of the popular vote) the 2000 presidential election, and if he had been the American president instead of Mr. Bush. Would Iraq have been invaded after 9/11? Probably not. Would the U.S. have signed Kyoto? Probably.
Then I got thinking about another unfulfilled presidency, that of Jimmy Carter.
Carter was a Democrat, and was President from 1977-1981. The critical thing about Carter was that - as far as energy goes - he "got" it. It probably helped that he was a nuclear engineer.
In the 1970's the world was hit by two oil shocks - in 1973 the Saudis reduced their oil output to piss off the world a bit and show how upset they were about Israel's continued growth, and in 1978 the Iranian revolution took Iran's oil off the market - both oil shortages sent prices soaring and got people thinking about energy conservation. In 1976, one of the people who truly understood what was going on, said something that Al Gore is kind of echoing today in "An Inconvenient Truth."
Regarding America's dependence on a finite resource, Carter said "We must face the prospect of changing our basic ways of living. This change will either be made on our own initiative in a planned way, or forced on us with chaos and suffering by the inexorable laws of nature."
When he became president and the 1978 oil shock happened, Carter took concrete steps to tell Americans that the age of conservation was upon them. He went so far as to install solar panels on the roof of the White House.
But Carter got nailed by soaring inflation, and by the Iranian hostage crisis (when 70 some Americans were held hostage in the American Embassy in Iran, and the U.S. was very unsuccessful in getting them released). In the next election Ronald Reagan and the Republicans whooped him. Reagan told the country "Hey! There's no energy crisis!!" and the solar panels came down, and the era of the SUV came into being.
So now we know that "peak oil" and global warming are happening, and there was a president in 1980 who knew that they would happen. In 2000 the Republicans took blacks off the voters list in Florida and that state went Republican, and Bush became President, beating out Gore, who, like Carter, would have done something about global warming.
Doesn't it make you wonder "What If?" Carter instead of Reagan, Gore instead of Bush, and maybe these guys wouldn't be dying.
and though this is a little cruel, here's the funniest "Jimmy Carter" story, which I first came across in Bill Bryson's book "Mother Tongue." Carter was giving a speech in Poland, with a translator at his side. Carter said something like "I wish for America to get to know the Polish nation on an intimate level." But, due to the translation, what the crowd heard Carter say was "I desire the Poles carnally."