The Corner

The one and only.

American Energy -- and Invention


Candidate Obama, like so many lefties, seems to believe anything bad about the United States, without even submitting it to critical thinking. He said on May 19, 2008, for example, that 3% of the world’s population (i.e., in his calculation, the United States) accounts for 25% of the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere. In the 1970s, the lefties used to talk about 6% of the world’s population using 25% of the world’s energy. Even before Obama, they were blaming America first.

The left’s figures depend on what is meant by “energy.”  Before the founding and development of the United States, “energy” meant the human back, beasts of burden, windmills, waterwheels, burning wood, coke, and coal, and the like. The United States is certainly not using 25% of the energy generated by those means today. I don’t think so, although it might be. The darn country is just so efficient.

But if we mean by “energy” only the modern sources of energy – electricity, the Franklin stove, the steam engine, the piston engine propelled by gasoline (and now by electric and/or hydrogen batteries), the processing of crude oil into gasoline, nuclear energy, the jet engine, the development of ethanol and other fuels derived from plants, and other devices – all of these except one were invented by the people of the United States, as their gift to the world. (The exception was the steam engine, invented by our cousins in Britain, and further developed here as well as there.)

In other words, the United States has invented nearly 100% of what the modern world means by “energy.” And it has helped the rest of the world to use 75%.

Why can’t the other peoples of the world learn how to discover, invent, and develop new kinds of energy? Why must the whole burden be placed upon the people of the United States?

And, by the way, it is not so hard to foresee the day when new kinds of batteries, also invented in the United States, will nearly entirely replace gasoline as the propellant of our cars. Think what will happen to the Middle East when oil becomes too expensive, too dirty, and just plain obsolete.

The smart-aleck remark of the Saudi official who recently told the Americans traveling with President Bush: “If you want more oil, buy it!” will one day be quoted quite quaintly alongside Marie Antoinette’s “If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake!” 


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review