If you didn't watch, I probably understand why you didn't. Honestly, I didn't have the intention to watch, either. But I'm glad I did.
It seems that over the past few years, we've been able to accomplish very little or nothing as a nation. Our political divisions, class conflict, and other ideological differences always seem take preference over the greater good. It's a mindset that could potentially destroy years of work and sacrifice made by our predecessors.
So, when I turned to the President's address, I fully expected to see the same meaningless activity that we've been seeing from our government lately. That is, a big show of shock and outrage from our elected officials towards "Big Oil" (which financed their campaigns), lots of finger pointing, a contrived apology from BP, and grandiose promises of renewal that will never be fulfilled.
What I saw was entirely different. The President's speech was genuine, well thought out, and relevant to Americans that are looking at the state of our nation and wondering, "how did we get here?"
The purpose of these remarks from Pres. Obama wasn't to focus on BP and the oil spill, or to further his political ambitions. It was to draw our attention to the fact that our energy infrastructure and our culture of thoughtless consumption is outdated, hazardous to the environment, a threat to our national security, and simply unjust to the rest of the world and those who follow in our footsteps.
It is a proven fact that we are nearing the end of the world's supply of oil. Traditional estimates place the reserves at approx. 40-50 years from exhaustion, but those estimates didn't factor in the growth of the world's largest economy, China. They also didn't consider that the reserve estimates were inflated by OPEC for political reasons.
We have already passed the point where consumption of oil exceeds the rate at which it's being produced. Most reputable scientific authorities agree that we are no greater than 15-20 years from exhausting the world supply of petroleum.
The blunt truth is this: you will live to see the end of gasoline and fossil fuels in your lifetime. Whether it destroys us or empowers us is up to you and I.
Our energy system is inefficient and wasteful. Over 40% of electricity generated from oil and coal fired power plants is wasted before it reaches its destination, because of old equipment, poorly insulated conduits, and other technical problems. Once it reaches our homes, again the great majority is wasted by old equipment and technology that wasn't designed to be energy efficient.
Unlike past threats to our survival such as wars and political conflict, no amount of diplomacy or political posturing will save us from this. For our society to exist even one more generation, we need to act with urgency.
Developing and implementing clean, sustainable energy is our generation's "space race". It's not simply a matter of national pride, it's a matter of national survival. Our history is defined by people who faced insurmountable odds and certain defeat, and through wits and willpower alone were able to prevail.
This is the time where our President's leadership will be tested. It is his responsibility to wake up the American people to the reality of our situation: that we can't ignore this issue anymore, the debate needs to end, and action needs to begin.
We have the technology today to greatly reduce our dependency upon fossil fuels, and to make our society much more efficient. It will be expensive, time consuming, and will require each American to change habits that traditionally are difficult to change. We must find the will to do it anyways.
No more excuses. Our destiny will be decided within the next few weeks - our leaders can use this catastrophe as a turning point for America, or continue the political games that are bringing our nation to its downfall. What happens over the next few weeks and months will determine not only whether President Obama is a true leader, but it will also determine whether America is a true leader as well.