DAILY KOS: In addition to more practical steps, President Carter made symbolic gestures toward saving energy. He began to give his speeches to the nation wearing a sweater to show that the White House thermostat had been turned down. He installed a wood stove in the living quarters of the White House. He had a set of solar water heating panels installed on the White House roof.

For the period of 1973 to 1980, the United States refused to walk the 9/11 highway. Rising energy prices lead theuncle-sam-oil-20060203-105321.thumbnail.jpg charge for near run-away inflation, and the economy wandered in and out of recession as it was battered by energy shortages. Many of the programs of that time were misguided. Some were flat out silly. But for a few years, Americans showed that they were still willing to make big changes in their lifestyles to meet the challenge of a safer, cleaner world.

Then came Ronald Reagan.

The same crisis in Iran that sent oil prices through the roof, floored President Carter’s run for a second term. While Carter campaigned on a program of fiscal responsibility and energy saving, his opponent ran on a platform that encouraged consumption, massive government spending on defense, and tax cuts as a way out of the country’s gasaddictionfuelcropped_1.jpgproblems. In the second debate between the two candidates, he put off OPEC as just another excuse for why the economy wasn’t doing well. Faced with a choice between a candidate who asked for further sacrifices in the name of long term prosperity and security, and a candidate who proclaimed it was “morning in America,” the voters went with the later.

What happened then was the single most critical moment in American political history in more than fifty years. It didn’t happen at a meeting with a foreign leader. It didn’t happen on the eve of a war. It happened right in Washington D.C. and it happened before the confetti of the inaugural balls had been swept from the roads. In his very first official act as president, Reagan ordered the solar panels removed from the White House.

Those panels were symbolic, but they were symbolic of very real programs and very real progress being made toward changing the energy mix in the United States. Almost as quickly as he had moved to take down the solar panels, Reagan moved to stop research into solar energy and alternate fuels. Incentives for conservation were ended. MORE

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