By Michael Smerconish
Unsolicited, I’ve written a speech for President Obama:
My fellow Americans, nearly 50 years ago, President Kennedy promised to send a man to the moon and back by the end of the decade — not because it was easy, but because it was hard. And we did.
Twenty-one years before that, President Roosevelt authorized another urgent national effort — this one more clandestine than the race to the moon. Its completion brought about the end of World War II.
In each of those instances, presidential initiative inspired the most-skilled Americans to tackle a problem of immense proportion. Today, we trace their footsteps by establishing yet another elite core of our most innovative and intelligent minds. Their task: to usher our country into an era of energy independence.
For nearly eight weeks, crude oil has been flowing — at the rate of tens of thousands of barrels a day — from a ruptured pipe to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and toward the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The damage, still impossible to fully comprehend, will no doubt be severe and far-reaching. A camera has captured the flood, streaming it from 5,000 feet below the surface to computer screens five inches from our faces. The current crisis has led us to this tipping point.
I have authorized the formation and initial funding of an unprecedented renewal effort — an effort whose goal will be to wean us off the crack pipe of foreign oil, to calm the cravings that follow, and to deliver the United States of America to the sobriety of energy independence.
This push will be manned by the very best and brightest minds this country can offer. From the Silicon Valley to the Space Coast, we are recruiting academics and engineers, scientists and CEOs, programmers and Ph.D.s — all with the goal of accelerating America toward new, clean, and safe forms of energy. While I would like to have seen a solution to our oil dependence arise from the private sector, no fix has been forthcoming, and so I am using the power of this office to marshal the effort. I am, however, involving the private sector’s most talented people from a variety of disciplines.
I have asked Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both of whom are here with us today, to launch the effort, along with Sergey Brin, cofounder of Google; Steven Levitt, author and economist at the University of Chicago; and T. Boone Pickens, chairman of BP Capital.
Their effort will replicate the structure, determination, willpower, and scientific innovation of the Manhattan Project. Between 1942 and 1945, about 125,000 Americans scattered throughout numerous factories and labs across the country — including 5,000 in Los Alamos, N.M. — contributed to the creation of the atomic bomb. They were the most proficient scientists and engineers in the country. They worked together and lived together, totally immersed in the task before them. Today, we are launching a similarly comprehensive effort.
This work will be funded by a partnership of public and private entities. We have committed $1 billion each from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and from the Environmental Protection Agency. Construction of a headquarters is already under way in the Silicon Valley. Satellite labs will be built and launched across the country. They will soon be bustling with the most accomplished scholars and graduates from our most prestigious universities.
The federal government, however, will not bankroll this movement alone. We have begun seeking financial commitments from the private sector as well, in the hopes of matching and surpassing the federal commitment.
Ours is not a cause motivated simply by environmentalism. At its heart, this project has been undertaken with the safety of the American people hanging in the balance. Every barrel of oil making its way from the wells of the Middle East to the shores of the United States is a form of indirect funding for those who wish to do this country harm. So, every step toward new and homegrown sources of energy is one step away from those who harbor America’s most dangerous enemies.
At the same time, we acknowledge that truly American energy will not be developed overnight. In the intervening decades, we will continue to seek safe, reliable drilling opportunities in places outside the Middle East. Proposals like cap-and-trade or carbon taxes — wielding an economic stick at our country’s crisis of energy — are no longer viable solutions. Moreover, they presuppose that alternative-energy sources are available right now, when the reality is that we are not yet prepared to depend on anything other than oil to power us forward.
Someday, however, we will be. And when that day comes, a future president will stand before you — this time to marvel at years of ingenuity that ushered in a new era of American safety and sustainability. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.