David Sokol calls for a new Apollo program on "climate change" in order to force a shift towards renewable energy in the US. He wants the government to "live up to their rhetoric" on cleaner energy sources, comparing it to the Kennedy mission to get a man to the moon. Sokol has the right idea, but the wrong reasons -- and a mistaken analogy:
In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy committed the nation, by the end of that decade, to landing Americans on the moon and bringing them safely back to Earth. Kennedy identified specific interim goals, such as developing a lunar spacecraft, new rocket booster technologies, and the deployment of satellite communication and weather observation systems.
In asking Congress to support his goal, he said that the effort "will last for many years and carry very heavy costs" and that it demanded "a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower."
Today, many political leaders say that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. Unfortunately, they fail to provide Kennedy's understanding of what is required, much less the resources and leadership, to succeed.
Let's start with the bad analogy first, which lends a touch of the ironic. The headline on this column, which in fairness may not have come from Sokol, shows an ignorance of the space program. Apollo was the final phase of flights and research that went into the lunar program. It was preceded by the Mercury and Gemini phases, which tested the theories of space flight and maneuvering necessary to achieve the final goal. It took six years to get to Apollo, and even after that, two more years to get to the moon.
I note this because many people put the cart before the horse on implementing renewable energy. Sokol does not; he notes that the technology simply doesn't exist at the moment for mass production of renewable energy. He calls for a twenty-five year program of partnership between government and private enterprise to develop those technologies, a massive effort that will remake American energy production. Sokol argues, effectively, that it will take that kind of effort to succeed in this task.
I suggested this approach eight months ago, but not for the reason that Sokol suggests. Climate change is hardly the defining challenge of our generation, and the headline is doubly ironic for that reason. Apollo was the god of the sun in ancient times, and it's the sun that drives climate change. Unless Sokol intends on controlling the impact of solar cycles on the planet, the program will not have much effect on the climate.
However, energy independence will end the reliance of the world on Middle East kleptocrats for enery resources. That money funds, both directly and indirectly, the terrorism that really is the defining challenge of our generation. Ending the West's dependence on the oil spigots of Arabia will severely undercut the ruling cliques that oppress their people and create the impulses for Islamist terror, as well as strip their ability to directly fund it. Sokol's plan would allow us within a generation to become self-reliant on the energy we need to expand our economy without having the threat of extortion from tinpot dictators.
Sokol has the right idea, even if he has the wrong motivation and a bad headline writer for it.