To Address Climate Change, Democrats Must Embrace The Future Of Energy Policy

To Address Climate Change, Democrats Must Embrace The Future Of Energy Policy

James Pethokoukis


Including nuclear energy.

Enter the Oval Office in December 1969 and you might notice — hanging on the wall, just to the right of President Nixon’s Wilson desk — the iconic “Earthrise” photo. It was taken from lunar orbit exactly a year earlier by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders. 

But that photo came down at some point in 1970, perhaps around the same time Nixon gave a speech ending NASA’s privileged budgetary status and lowering America’s human spaceflight ambitions. As John Logsdon of The Planetary Society has written, “Nixon apparently did not want to be reminded of what remarkable things human explorers could accomplish as he made the decisions that would keep humans in low Earth orbit for the next half-century.”

In a lovely coincidence, 1970 may have also been the year that American started becoming less future-oriented. In my recent The Week column, I cite a recent study by Yale University economist Ray Fair that highlights a steady decline in US infrastructure spending as a percent of GDP beginning that year. This was also a period during which the federal government started running big budget deficits. Fair argues the two occurrences reflect a sustained change in national attitude: “The overall results suggest that the United States became less future oriented beginning around 1970. This change has persisted.”

The logic here: Fixing your roof while the sun is shining and curbing spending before the bill collector calls require some foresight and the ability to place the current you in the shoes of future you. And not only have those trends identified by Fair continued until today, the overall lack of future orientation seems to have worsened given the economic nostalgia infecting our politics.

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