I believe this nation should commit….


J. D. Pendry


"I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.  No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."


President John F. Kennedy, speech to U.S. Congress, May 25, 1961


Eight years after President Kennedy made that speech, American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin  were standing on the moon.  In less than one decade, with technology light years behind what we have today, we moved from second place behind the Soviet Union to leading the world in space exploration.  It’s a position we can only lose to complacency.


We were a different America then.  We were not a collection of people looking to hide our Americanism behind a hyphenated loyalty to a place or culture never visited and never likely to be.  Being American meant something.  It meant a nation of people yearning for challenge and willing to commit to a world leading vision.  While our Soldiers were fighting for the freedom of another people in the jungles of Vietnam and our Astronauts were astounding the world, Americans were taking to the streets trying to find themselves.  Woodstock, mind-expanding drugs, war protests, and new hyphenated identities supplanted just being American.  We demonstrated to the world that our time for facing down dangerous enemies as we did during the Cuban Missile Crisis or leading as we did with the Apollo Space program was lost to hyphenated individualism.  The loss of our national identity and will became apparent to all of our potential adversaries culminating with our political loss of the Vietnam War.  The nations that hoped for our end or that wished us to move backwards or standstill saw us losing our ability to commit to achieving any great challenge.


In October of 1973, because of our support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, the Arabs handed us an oil embargo.  As the price of fuel moved up faster than an Apollo moon shot, our responses were fuel conservation and tinkering with daylight savings time.  We could by gas on odd or even numbered days depending on the digit with which our license plated number ended.  Politicians started preaching that the resolution to our problem was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Yes, that was in 1973. 


We countered with the Trans-Alaskan pipeline.  Some oil companies also invested large amounts of money into learning how to extract oil from shale, but it was an expensive proposition at 1970’s prices and with 1970’s technology.  The Arabs responded to our efforts in the 70’s by reducing the price of a barrel of oil and turning the spigot back on.  Our political leaders and oil companies chose cheap Arab oil over the more expensive alternative of freeing ourselves from dependence on it.  The Arabs figured us out.


Our estimated reserve in oil shale is 2 trillion barrels.  That is 60 percent of the known reserve worldwide and 80 percent of that is on federally owned property.  At today’s prices and with today’s technology it’s economically feasible to go after it, but we seem bent on growing more corn while continuing to enrich those financing the opposition in our “terror” war.


Oil shale development will diversify and increase the supply of domestic energy.  The Nation’s 2 trillion barrel untapped oil shale resource base could make a significant contribution to our future mix of energy options. – Strategic Significance of America’s Oil Shale Resource


Here in my state we provide the coal that keeps the lights on in more than 50 percent of America.   We have enough of it to match the fuel produced by some Middle Eastern Countries.  The Fischser-Tropsch process for producing liquid fuel from coal has been in use for a long time.  The German namesakes developed it in the 1920s and the Germans used it as a source for fuel during World War II.  Sasol of South Africa is the current world leader in using this process, producing 30 percent of South Africa’s fuel supply.  The EPA tells us it’s cleaner than the diesel fuel we now burn in our vehicles.  In regards to industry, the Southern part of my state resembles and underdeveloped third world country.  Our politicians believe the answer to our economic woes lies in a Vegas style gambling industry.  Of course, that’s more glamorous and it’s easier than building and operating coal to liquid fuel plants.  In the long term, which commitment will better serve our people and our country?


In retrospect, the cost in lives and wealth of weaning ourselves from the Middle Eastern oil teat would have been much less than it has been.  For the decades since October 1973, we have transferred enormous amounts of our national wealth to oppressive Islamic regimes whose religion and teaching does not allow for our co-existence and whose terrorist offspring have taken thousands of American lives.   To steal a phrase from a Presidential candidate:  In America, “Energy Independence” is little more than a political bumper sticker.  Until we make a true national commitment toward it we are not nor will we ever be a free nation.  "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal …”, now.  To paraphrase President Kennedy, no single commitment in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range security of our nation.


© J. D. Pendry 2007