Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How My Favorite Republican President Brought Down the Soviet Union

Not having read Friedman's book, I never thought of it quite this way before:
A good measure of [Jimmy] Carter's problem is the fact that he was farsighted in seeing the kind of energy and ecological mess we are now experiencing.   Thomas Friedman pays proper tribute to his response to the oil crisis of the 1970s, when Carter cut back on fuel use in federl buildings, installed solar panels at the White House, promoted tax breaks for wind technology, and regulated gas consumption in Federal vehicles.  In Friedman's words:
Between 1975 and 1985, American passenger vehicle mileage went from about 13.5 miles per gallon to 27.5, while light truck mileage increased from 11.6 miles per gallon to 19.5--all of which helped to create a global oil glut from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, which not only weakened OPEC but also helped to unravel the Soviet Union, then the world's second-largest oil producer.
Reagan mocked such measures as a failure of America's can-do spirit, and when he became president he canceled the tax breaks for energy conservation measures, lifted regulations, and removed the solar panels.  Technology developed for wind and solar energy was sold to foreign countries.
That's Garry Wills, reviewing Jimmy Carter's White House Diary, in the New York Review of Books, Oct 28, 2010, at 23.  The Friedman snippet is from Thomas L.Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How it Can Renew America 14 (2008).

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