General Question

Bri_L's avatar

Why cant we apply JFK's attitude about getting to the moon to our energy crisis today?

Asked by Bri_L (12219points) September 17th, 2008

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.

Why can’t we do the same thing but with our energy issues? I realize that it is a much more general issue. I think that it is an example of the government mobilizing to reach a goal.

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31 Answers

marissa's avatar

The differences I see between the two issues:
– Getting to the moon first was something most all Americans agreed, there are many different opinions in regards to the energy crisis
– Getting to the moon first was seen as a patriotic goal for the US, energy crisis is more global
– Getting to the moon before Russia was portrayed in a Good vs. Evil way

Americans seemed to be more unified in regards to the goal of reaching the moon first, so it was easy for the President and Congress to get behind it, they were making most, if not all, of their constituents happy. With the energy crisis issue it isn’t as easy for them to come up with one single plan of attack that will make most all of their constituents happy.

dalepetrie's avatar

Or to summarize marissa’s answer in two words:

“political will”.

Bri_L's avatar

Ah, excellent points.

I was completely missing those.

To bad the gov cant market it that way. Think of the jobs. The “pull together” idea. The concept of american pride that could become of it.

marissa's avatar

@ dale – great summary! :0)....@Bri_L – Thanks!

Judi's avatar

I was really young, but it seems to me that a lot of people complained even then about spending 13 million for a bag of rocks. In hindsight it is a national pride, but when you are in the hard middle of it, doubters come from every direction. Your proposal is exactly the challenge we are facing, and if enough of us are inspired to follow a new energy independent direction, nothing is impossible. That IS the greatness that is America!

Bri_L's avatar

@ Judi – excellent!

What would be cool this time is that instead of rocks, we would get jobs, energy, technology ( which I know we got from the moon effort ), energy independence, and for gosh sakes legitimate pride.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

well, you may already know this, but Al Gore is trying to do just that. He is calling for “repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years” and cited JFK and the moon landing in his speech when he made the announcement. join up!

We Campaign

dalepetrie's avatar

Another big difference…back in the 60s, I don’t think 23% of the voting population were evangelicals who believed the moon wasn’t real. and yes I know not all evangelicals think global warming isn’t real or manmade, but you get my point nontheless, I’m sure.

Bri_L's avatar

@8lightminuesaway – first kickass name

second I didn’t know this. Awesome I am on my way.

8lightminutesaway's avatar

:) Thank you Bri, you’re the first to comment on it, woot

PupnTaco's avatar

• Apathy
• Education
• Corporate control of government via lobbyists

jrpowell's avatar

I think #3 on list by PupnTaco nails it. It probably wont be Exxon/Mobile or BP that is responsible for finding alternative methods of energy production. And we all should know that they pay a lot of money every year to buy politicians (from both party’s) so I doubt they really want to promote something that would put the people who fund them out of business.

allengreen's avatar

Because Exxon is running our country.

wundayatta's avatar

Goals like this are, for the most part, marketing schemes. Remember Nixon’s “War on Cancer?” Bush’s “War on Terrorism?”

Turns out that there isn’t just one cancer, and there isn’t just one kind of terrorist. Each of these “wars” is really multiple fights.

Energy is like that, too. There are multiple problems, and multiple solutions, and very many choices to be made. There are trade-offs between environment and lighting, fast cars and increased efficiency, birds and wind farms, coal extraction and countryside, nuclear power and potential contamination of areas around nuclear power sites.

Perhaps most importantly, there is no consensus about solutions. With Kennedy, you had an exciting goal that NASA sold him, and you had people involved, and a time where people believed in the magic of technological progress.

Energy self-sufficiency is not a sexy goal. Looked at one way, we already have it. We are able to provide ourselves with the energy we are willing to sacrifice other things for. Even if people do think there is an energy problem (and of course, lots do), there is no consolidation around one particular solution. More Drilling? More Nukes? More Green Energy? Each has adherents and critics.

And then there are the idiotic people like me, who believe there is no problem. The market will take care of it. People are silly for getting up in arms about a minor price increase. Look. It’s already coming down, and after Ike is cleaned up, the prices will be back around 3 to 3.50 a gallon this winter. And next summer they’ll go up again to the 4 to 4.25 range. Unless something unanticipated happens. Like another war, or Hurricane, or some other manmade or natural disaster. If the Big One hits California, I don’t know what will happen to oil prices.

As the price goes up, more companies will spend more capital on more wind farms, and geothermal, and coal gasification, and shale oil, and who knows what else. Oh, vegetable oil from corn or sugar or even hemp.

There is no “energy” crisis. We will have all the energy we think we need. It’s an issue of trade-offs and choices. What we really are facing is a price shock. And of course, everyone is running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Thus there’s no need for a national drive for energy. And there will be no such national drive. And no President is going to turn the temp down to 60 and wear sweaters like Jimmy Carter did. Just not gonna happen.

MarcIsMyHero's avatar

I believe Obama stated that he will make that his mission when elected president.

it is different from the space race due to the opposition to solving the energy crisis.

What no one has yet mentioned though, is just how powerful the opposition (oil conglomerates and their lobbyists) are. There are many people who financially benefit from our destruction of the environment and those greedy assholes all seem to like the status quo. Relieving the US of our dependance on oil is going to be a dificult road because of how much influence the oil companies have purchased over our politicians. THere is a reason why they are the major campaign contributers to both parties. it has in the past always given them a free pass. The blatant ties between Bush and Cheney to Halliburton and other huge energy companies have been downplayed, but it shouldnt come as a surprise that every time the Bush administration had an opportunity to change environmental practices they instead voted or vetoed in favor of their friends and their wallets.

allengreen's avatar

Exposed: McCain team includes 83 Wall Street lobbyists
Phil Anderson: American Council of Life Insurers, Aetna, AIG, New York Life, MassMutual, VISA

Rebecca Anderson: Aegon, American Council of Life Insurers, Cigna, Barclays, Credit Suisse First Boston, HSBC

Stanton Anderson: The Debt Exchange

David Beightol: Allstate, Amerigroup, Charles Schwab, HSBC

Rhonda Bentz: VISA

Wayne Berman: American Council of Life Insurers, AIG, Americhoice, Shinsei Bank, Blackstone, Carlyle Group, Broidy Capital Management, Credit Suisse Securities, Highstar Capital, VISA, Ameriquest Mortgage, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Fitch Ratings

Charlie Black: JP Morgan, Washington Mutual Bank, Freddie Mac, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, National Association of Mortgage Brokers

Judy Black: Colorado Credit Union League, Genworth Financial, Bay Harbour Management, Merrill Lynch

Kirk Blalock: Credit Union National Association, Financial Executives International, American Insurance Association, Mutual of Omaha, Zurich Financial Service Group, Fannie Mae, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco

Carlos Bonilla: Financial Services Roundtable, Freddie Mac

Christine Burgeson: Citigroup

Mark Buse: Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, Manufacturers Life Insurance Company

Nicholas Calio: Citigroup, Managed Fund Association, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, The Investment Company Institute, TIAA-CRE, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association

Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Amscot Financial Corporation, Community Financial Services Association, Fidelity National Financial

Andrew Cantor: American Insurance Association, Merrill Lynch

Alberto Cardenas: Fannie Mae

James Courter: Goldman Sachs, Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette, Investment Company Institute, Merrill Lynch

David Crane: Financial Services Roundtable, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Bank of America, Association of Corporate Credit Unions, Freddie Mac

Dan Crippen: Merrill Lynch, National Multi-Housing Council

Arthur Culvahouse: Fannie Mae

Bryan Cunningham: Arch Capital Group

Alfonse D’Amato: AIG, Freddie Mac

Doug Davenport: Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Goldman Sachs, VISA

Ashley Davis: Prudential Financial, American Financial Group, American Premier Underwriters, Great American Insurance Company

Mimi Dawson: MassMutual

Melissa Edwards: Freddie Mac, National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, Access to Capital Coalition

Chris Fidler: American Bankers Association, Milcom Venture Partners, National Association Real Estate Investment Trusts

Samuel Geduldig: American Bankers Association, American Institute of CPAs, America Gains, Berkshire Hathaway, Consumer Bankers Association, Ernst & Young, Financial Services Roundtable, Investment Company Institute, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Prudential Financial, Sovereign Investment Council, Fidelity Investments, FMR Corp.

Benjamin Ginsberg: Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance, AIG Technical Services

David Girard-Dicarlo: American Financial Group, American Premier Underwriters

Juleanna Glover Weiss: RJI Capital, American Institute of CPAs, BNP Paribas, Ernst & Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Slade Gorton: Allstate Insurance, Hannan Armstrong Capital

Phil Gramm: UBS Americas

John Green: Laredo National Bank, Alternative Investment Management Association, AIG, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group, Citigroup, Credit Suisse Group, Fannie Mae, Icahn Associates, FMR Corp., AFLAC, VISA

Janet Grissom: American Institute of CPAs, NYSE, Merrill Lynch

Kristen Gullott: San Diego Credit Union

Kent Hance: Stanford Financial Group, Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc.

Vicki Hart: American Financial Services Association, Citigroup, Investment Company Institute, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, New York Stock Exchange, VISA, Carlyle Group, Credit Suisse, Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, Goldman Sachs, National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, Stanford Group, Lloyd’s of London, National City Corp.

Richard Hohlt: Capmark Financial Group, Fannie Mae, JP Morgan Chase and Co., Student Loan Marketing Association, Washington Mutual, Guaranty Bank & Trust, Peachtree Settlement Funding, Dime Savings Bank of New York

Gaylord Hughey: Heartland Security Insurance Group

Kate Hull: Credit Union National Association, Fannie Mae, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Zurich Financial Services, American Insurance Association, Financial Executives International

James Hyland: American Insurance Association, Seattle Home Loan Bank, Self Help Credit Union, National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees, Merrill Lynch, Mortgage Investors Corp., Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, Freddie Mac, New York Stock Exchange, Citigroup, VISA

Aleix Jarvis: Credit Union National Association, Fannie Mae, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Financial Executives International, Mutual of Omaha, American Insurance Association, Zurich Financial Services

Greg Jenner: American Council of Life Insurers, JG Wentworth, UBS, VISA, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Frank Keating: American Council of Life Insurers

Steven Kuykendall: California Bankers Association

William Lesher: Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Commerce Ventures, Rabobank International

Thomas Loeffler: Citigroup, Fannie Mae, Investment Company Institute, World Savings and Loan Association, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)

Kelly Lugar: RJI Capital Strategies

Peter Madigan: Arthur Andersen, Bank of New York, Broadridge Securities Processing, Charles Schwab, Deloitte and Touche, Goldman Sachs, International Employee Stock Option Coalition, Mastercard, NYSE, Fannie Mae, Merrill Lynch, PNC Bank

Mary Mann: MassMutual

Paul Martino: Morgan Stanley, Baker Tilly

Jana McKeag: Venture Catalyst

Alison McSlarrow: Fannie Mae, Hartford

Mike Meece: Georgetown Partners

David Metzner: Ernst & Young, Harbinger Capital Investments, Prudential, Public Financial Management, Western Union

Susan Molinari: Freddie Mac, American Land Title Association, Association of Consumer Credit Unions, Beacon Capital Partners, College Loan Corp, Coventry First, E-Trade, Financial Services Roundtable, Rent-A-Center

John Moran: Cerberus Capital Management, American Council of Life Insurers, Accenture

John Napier: Freddie Mac

Susan Nelson: AIG, San Antonio Credit Union

Paul Otellini: Ernst & Young, Financial Services Forum

Steve Perry: Charles Schwab, Hoover Partners, HSBC, National Stock Exchange

Nancy Pfotenhauer: American Land Title Association, Mortgage Bankers Association

Elise Pickering-Finley: Credit Suisse, DE Shaw, Hartford Financial Services, Research In Motion, Retail Industry Lenders Association, URL Mutual

James Pitts: Advanced Association for Life Underwriting, AETNA, American Council of Life Insurers, AIG, Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, Debt Advisory International, Financial Services Coordinating Council, GE Financial Assurance, Hartford Life, Jefferson Pilot Financial, Kenwood Investments, MassMutual, Mutual of Omaha, New York Life, UNUM Provident, VISA, PMI Group

Tim Powers: AP Capital, Genworth Financial, Retail Industry Lenders Association, E-LOAN, General Electric Mortgage Insurance

Walter Price: Wachovia

Sloan Rappoport: Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group, Inc. (FBR), Trafelet Delta Funds

Hans Rickhoff: Capital One, Investment Company Institute, United Services Automobile Association (USAA)

Kathleen Shanahan: New York Stock Exchange

Andrew Shore: Accenture, Retail Industry Lenders Association, Barclays, Bond Market Association, Credit Suisse, TPG Capital

Katie Stahl: Alliance for Investment Transparency, Ares Management, Fairfax Financial Holdings, Uhlmann Financial Group

Milly Stanges: TIAA-CREF

Aquiles Suarez: Fannie Mae

Don Sundquist: Freddie Mac, The Hartford

Peter Terpeluk: JP Morgan Chase, Ernst & Young, Prudential

Fred Thompson: Equitas

Jeri Thompson: American Insurance Association

John Timmons: National Association of Federal Credit Unions

William Timmons Sr.: American Council of Life Insurers, Citigroup, Dun & Bradstreet, Freddie Mac, Vanguard Group

Vin Weber: Agstar Financial Services, AKT Investment Corp., American Institute of CPAs, Ernst & Young, Freddie Mac, Louis Dreyfus Corp, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Jeffery Weiss: JP Morgan

Tony Williams: Russell Investment Group, American Life Inc., Northwestern Mutual

Bri_L's avatar

@ daloon:

“Goals like this are, for the most part, marketing schemes. Remember Nixon’s “War on Cancer?” Bush’s “War on Terrorism?”
Turns out that there isn’t just one cancer, and there isn’t just one kind of terrorist. Each of these “wars” is really multiple fights.”
I have to say though that it is a worthy fight to rid the world of cancer and terrism. I am aware of the fact that is an ongoing fight.

I agree with you on some points. As usual there are multiple solutions to what we usually find out are multiple problems. Excessive greed and a lack of understanding our part as you pointed out.

I would point out that the systems in place are ancient, in efficient and out dated. They may work fine as you implied but they do damage to our environment, or will. Why wait until my son has to try to fix it. If we advanced fuel technology at the rate we advanced computer chip technology, just imagine.

I should clarify my statement to. I didn’t mean to isolate it to “energy crisis”. I should have said energy technology.

roadventer's avatar

Amazing how people analyze an engineering challenge as if it were a political or philosophical one. It is, but only if you’re not one of the people responsible for solving the problem.

The fact is that the deliverable in the moon mission were already well understood, and all of the key technological elements of the goal were already proven, e.g. rocket propulsion, guidance systems, environmental controls, etc. In other words, we had a very good SPECIFIC understanding of what we were trying to create, and how we would go about creating it, BEFORE we embarked on the mission.

In the case of an economically viable alternative to oil (other than nuclear which is already well established), you are describing a mission to create something of which you do not know. That’s what makes it so different from the moon mission. For the general public, this difference may seem insignificant, as both are essentially “magical”. But for engineers, the people whose feet must touch the ground for this stuff, the difference is between that which we know and that which we don’t. Good engineers implicitly understand this difference, and as we say about the rest: they just don’t know what they don’t know, and we do know what we don’t know. And we don’t know how to economically replace fossil fuels today (other than with nuclear). In the case of the moon mission, we [engineers] DID know how to get to the moon BEFORE Kennedy stated the mission. Really, it was just an implementation challenge by that time.

allengreen's avatar

Road—“That’s what makes it so different from the moon mission. For the general public, this difference may seem insignificant, as both are essentially “magical”.”

So are the 8 million natural gass cars GM sold in Europe and Asia last year “magical” too?

roadventer's avatar

Allen – No, they are not magic. Are you asserting that natural gas powered cars are the answer to our energy issues as the question asks? If so, then the problem has been solved as you seem to suggest (although I think you have defined the problem way too narrowly…more fossil fuel production, distribution and combustion).

Wait…lemme guess…GM and Exxon-Mobil are keeping natural gas vehicles from succeeding in the U.S. market. That’s it, isn’t it?

Let me get real: what is it that I said that you disagree with?

Bri_L's avatar

@road – My father is an engineer. I was in engineering for 3.5 years. The logic your describing is not exclusive to engineering. What your saying is true.

But at some point you (the engineers) didn’t know about rocket propulsion etc. either. That was magic. Kinda like fitting a computer in one room.

What I am suggesting is saying “Hey lets get the people who are trained in this stuff what they need and let them loose with some goals”.

allengreen's avatar

road—natural gass could be one form of a bridge to other alt energies.

is your suggetion to do nothing?

GM and Exxon-Mobil are keeping natural gas vehicles from succeeding in the U.S. market. That’s it, isn’t it?——Bingo!

roadventer's avatar


You are quite right about the magical quality of the little technical leaps that occur. In retrospect, they appear obvious and seem to flow from prior understanding. But prior to their discovery, they are nowhere to be seen.

And that’s the problem with throwing money at engineers: you just don’t know who might come up with a solution or what the solution will look like. The NSF granting process is a good example of the government’s attempt to filter through potentialities in order to place good bets on potential outcomes. The solutions don’t come simply because they are funded; it takes capable people, funding, and luck. Regrettably, when the government starts to grandstand over politically popular R&D initiatives, the result tends to be a flood of research money, a flood of research money consumers, but not a proportional increase in likelihood of successful outcome. So it’s a delicate initiative to push efficiently.

I would be disappointed to see a lack of availability of funding of energetic people who can stretch some R&D dollars into legitimately creative inquiries. But there are at least a hundred universities that would shamelessly over-equip a pretty new laboratory and create some new Memorial Emeritus Pompous Professor Seat at the expense of the taxpayers. And that’s where most of the dollars in a high-profile initiative would go, with no confidence of results.

You need the research to be done by people hungry to solve the problem, and you need the funding to be issued by people who feel the constraints of limited resources. Because when you’ve done that much, the rest is just running on prayer. It’s a gamble. We don’t like gambling.

Bri_L's avatar

@ Roadventer: Its funny because I was going to type that I felt an academic approach was ideal, and for all the reasons you stated. The beauty of young academia is they don’t know it can’t be done and they love to show it can.

The good news is, if I learned anything from McGiver, you guys can do it!

galileogirl's avatar

People seem to focus on THE answer to the energy problem. There will never be a silver bullet. The problem requires multiple answers. It would be a mistake to focus on one solution in the same way we ignored alternatives to almost complete reliance on fossil fuels because of convenience.

While the single goal was reaching the moon there were several steps and processes in achieving that goal. It was not blindly following one technology. Here in California we are being asked to follow that kind of path to solve the problem of renewable energy. The idea is to make utilities to be using 33–40% renewable energy by 2025. A good goal, right? The problem is the law limits where that ren-en comes from. It must come from companies that are able to provide significant energy under 20 year contracts. These will undoubtedly be the bastard children of today’s energy companies who will maintain a stranglehold on energy production-renewable but not green.

Why not have a multi-pronged attack on the problem, requiring energy efficiency in all construction, lowering the speed limit, requiring energy efficiency in vehicles, giving tax credits for renewable/green modifications and any other number of things. The more solutions the better.

allengreen's avatar

We all have a false assumption on this issue. Fact is, we cannot and will not be able to sustain a lifestyle like we did when oil was cheap. Food will be produced locally, travel will be limited, xurbs will cease to exist except for a few stuck hold outs, and the things we will have then, will largely be made by hand. The book “The Long Emergency”, by James H Kunstler details what we can realistically expect.
Though the false debate, like the one we are having here will continue, since folks cannot concieve a life without cheap fuel.

Bri_L's avatar

I didn’t intend for this to be a false debate. I am not sure exactly what you mean by that.

All I was saying was, we once achieved something great with great minds and were proud as a nation.

Could we do it now with energy issues.

I am, to be honest, surprised at a. the negative track so many people took and b. how specific some people got with the question when it wasn’t.

allengreen's avatar

No don’t misunderstand me. Check out this link listen to #7 and # 28——this guy has changed my life, and how I see the world.

Bri_L's avatar

@ allengreen – I will listen to those and come back to this.

jdegrazia's avatar

Al Gore’s energy revolution speech from this past June talked about putting men on moons, and journalist Andy Revkin, on his blog, Dot Earth, responded beautifully:

Many scientists and engineers have looked to the Apollo program as a metaphor, but stressed that energy transformation is a far greater challenge. Here’s what one solar expert told me: “We already have electricity coming out of everybody’s wall socket,” says Nathan S. Lewis, a chemistry professor who co-directs the Powering the Planet project at Caltech. “This is not a new function we’re seeking. It’s a substitution. It’s not like NASA sending a man to the moon. It’s like finding a new way to send a man to the moon when Southwest Airlines is already flying there every hour handing out peanuts.”

Gotta love a great metaphor.

Bri_L's avatar

@ idegrazia – that is great. hehe. I love the peanut reference. I would respond that with that mentality though look where our television sets would be. Our computers. Our microchips. And I would also say that until we had energy coming out of the walls, we didn’t. At some point, some engineer said, screw this I can come up with a way.

No one says it will be easy. No is saying it is structurally, scientifically, by way of engineering or any other science out there comparable to the moon goal. At least I wasn’t.

My point was the rally. The way the country was behind it. The unified feeling we had.

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