The Best-Laid Plans

What do Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all have in common? The decades long dream of energy independence.

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545735_111220_Nixon2667927pk5.jpg

RICHARD NIXON
"Let us set as our national goal, in the spirit of Apollo, with the determination of the Manhattan Project, that by the end of this decade we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources." (Nov. 7, 1973)

The goal: Energy independence by 1980.

RICHARD NIXON
“Let us set as our national goal, in the spirit of Apollo, with the determination of the Manhattan Project, that by the end of this decade we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources.” (Nov. 7, 1973)

The goal: Energy independence by 1980.

The plan: Decrease industrial use of petroleum, ration home heating oil and airplane fuel, reduce red tape for nuclear power plant construction.

Gene Forte/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images

GERALD FORD
“I am recommending a plan to make us invulnerable to cutoffs of foreign oil. It will require sacrifices, but it — and this is most important — it will work.” (Jan. 15, 1975)

The goal: Energy independence by 1985.

The plan: More domestic oil drilling, tariffs on imported oil, an end to price controls, fast-tracked, coal-fired power plants, tax credits for nuclear power plants, increased home and vehicle efficiency, development of synthetic fuels, establishment of a strategic petroleum reserve.

MPI/Getty Images

JIMMY CARTER
“By acting now, we can control our future instead of letting the future control us.… This difficult effort will be the moral equivalent of war — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.” (April 18, 1977)

The goal: Cut U.S. oil imports in half by 1985.

The plan: Conservation programs, expanded use of coal and solar power, development of synthetic fuels, creation of the Energy Department.

Michael Grecco/Getty Images

GEORGE H.W. BUSH
“There is no security for the United States in further dependence on foreign oil.” (Aug. 18, 1988)

The goal: Cut oil imports by one-third by 2010.

The plan: Fast-tracked pipeline construction, incentives for natural gas use, new investments in energy research and development.

J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images

GEORGE W. BUSH
“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology.” (Jan. 31, 2006)

The goal: Cut 75 percent of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.

The plan: Open more federal lands to oil and gas exploration, expand subsidies for biofuels production, fund research into hydrogen fuel cells, coal gasification, and other technologies.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

BARACK OBAMA
“It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence.… America will not be held hostage to dwindling resources, hostile regimes, and a warming planet.” (Jan. 26, 2009)

The goal: Cut oil imports by one-third by 2025.

The plan: Stimulus spending on renewable-energy research, tax credits for home energy efficiency, a cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon emissions and making renewable energy cost-competitive, expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Charles Homans is a special correspondent for the New Republic and the former features editor of Foreign Policy.

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