You remember the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant? The grasshopper spends the warm months--when food is abundant--singing, dancing, and generally enjoying himself while the ant works hard to store up food for the colder months, which he knows are coming. And sure enough, when winter comes, the ant is prepared and the grasshopper starves.
Well in the world of politics--and particularly when it comes to energy policy--there are a lot of grasshoppers and very few ants, and unfortunately, the grasshoppers have been setting policy for a long time now.
Almost three decades ago, on July 15, 1979, President Carter (one of the ants) delivered an important speech. Knowing that our nation's energy policy was unsustainable and that we were becoming increasingly dependent on oil from hostile foreign countries, he proposed a bold plan:
In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. . . .
This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them. . . .
To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel --from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun. . .
He also called for a "bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle."
This speech was greeted by the grasshoppers--whose ranks included virtually every Republican politician in the country--with nothing but derision and mockery. They laughed and made fun of the cardigan Carter wore when he delivered the speech. And before long, that was all anyone remembered about the speech.
In the nearly thirty years since Carter delivered that speech, any politician that has ventured into similar territory has been similarly mocked and derided by Republicans. Barack Obama was mocked viciously just yesterday--and explicitly compared to Carter--because he pointed out that filling your tires with air reduces fuel consumption. Over the years, leaders of the Republican Party--like Dick Cheney--have been openly hostile to the very concept of conservation and have allowed lobbyists for the oil companies to literally write our nation's energy policies. And during that time, almost three decades, we've become far more dependent on foreign oil, and our government has made little if any effort to encourage the development of alternative energy sources or even to take simple steps to improve energy efficiency (such as raising CAFE standards for automobile makers).
In short, for the last three decades, the Republican Party has been a party of grasshoppers, blissfully encouraging the consumption of ever greater amounts of oil while doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the winter ahead. Indeed, they've done everything in their power to marginalize those who have warned that the good times can't last and that we need to embrace conservation initiatives and develop alternative energy sources.
And now that the long-awaited winter has finally come and we're all suffering under the weight of sky-high oil prices, what is the Republican response? They seize upon an imaginary quick fix--off-shore oil drilling--and they all rally around it, accusing their opponents of being the obstacle to lower gas prices. They preen and pose, convening fake sessions of Congress to show that they are the ones who really care about gas prices. They ignore what their own government experts have acknowledged, that allowing further off-shore drilling won't produce a drop of new oil for at least a decade and, even then, will do little if anything to reduce gas prices.
Apparently in the Republican version of the fable, rather than admitting that he'd been short-sighted and reckless in not preparing for the winter, the grasshopper pretends that there's actually a winter's worth of food located just beneath his feet and that the only thing keeping him from digging it up is that damn ant.