Project: Clean America

What helped bring America out of the Great Depression? WWII was certainly a factor: Making bombs, guns, tanks, and craft created an entire industrialized economy that wouldn’t have come together so fast or desperately if history didn’t rear its ugly head as it did.

It has been said we’re in a Great Recession, but we don’t have a national project on par with that of WWII. The times are very different, but the stakes are just as scary; ostensible global catastrophe. Let’s say American citizens and the powers that be underwent a several-tiered project that would get America off of oil & coal, and onto clean energy (non-nukes), over about the same timeframe as WWII – about five to six years.

I could see America withdrawing troops from oil-rich countries, to divert that money to R&D and new jobs for a New Energy Infrastructure. Among other areas the country could divert spending onto such an endeavor.

I could also see the gov’t hedging and rationing our current oil/coal surplus to make the transition barely noticeable (assuming we have enough, I don’t know the numbers).

Is a plan like this totally cockamamie, or could there be something to it, no matter how unrealistic it might be to actually push a national project like this through? If the politics weren’t so paralyzing, couldn’t we make a huge push such that we did during WWII, or even Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System in the 50s? Shit, we landed on the Moon in less than a decade, because we could. Where’d our moxie go? Can we become a nation that could rely on ~90% clean energy (non-nukes) in five to six years?

(Major targets being: Cars, homes, mid-small businesses, etc.)

(FWIW - I’m a “tear the band-aid off fast” kind of guy. Politics and the economy move far too slowly for such epic measures that sooner or later everyone will have to face, IMHO).

Okay, build nuclear plants. Seriously.

Solar won’t work. Wind won’t work. Natural gas? Not for long, and we can’t actually drill for it.

NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY.

Well, build a nuclear plant. Hell, put it in my FRONT yard, just give me cheap electricity.

Pay me rent, and you can store the ‘waste’ (otherwise known as fuel for later use in other reactors if someone would allow them to be built) in my shed next to my lawnmower.

Why bother with nuclear science, when it depends on un-renewable resources? We’ve had 50+ years to move over to nuclear energy, and all the public sees is scary meltdowns (however statistically rare), and gobs of waste that can be weaponized (and used against us, which is arguably only a matter of time).

Looking back on the last century, or even 150 years, America always seemed at its best when we had a common, “for-the-long-term” goal to rally around. We were able to pioneer many technologies over the course of the 20th century, usually through large economic or war-time pushes. Where’s our 21st Century Challenge?

It seems clean, renewable energy (solar, wind, wave…) is right on the edge of breakthrough. All it would need is one, huge push. No?

Why couldn’t it work? Personally, my bet is on solar, but it’s an engineering problem. If leaves can do it, we’ll figure out a way. Stuff like this is happening all the time.

I know you’re being semi-facescious to make a point that nuclear is relatively safe and efficient. But, really, all this does is create another problem. It’s a serious one, too. Spent fuel rods are incredibly hot, and have half-lives in the thousands-of-years and create all kinds of very dangerous waste materials that have to be heavily guarded and controlled. And again… Uranium = non-renewable.

Nuclear tech is great, and should be used in highly specialized and focused industries. It’s a cheaper, relatively cleaner energy source than fossil fuels, but it’s only cleaner because its waste is so centralized. This isn’t a long-term/permanent answer for earth’s energy solution.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say no.
< DA >
Because sometime in the last half-century, society has quietly and contentedly fallen apart - and for some very positive, as well as negative, reasons.

We’re not just too socially isolated - we’re too free to be individual. We’re not only lacking in communitarianism and leadership - we’re lacking in authoritarianism and followership.

The country that won WW2 will never come again, because a lot of our people’s dedication and spirit then was due to two things: having a human enemy to hate, and knowing our place and role as dictated by a lot of things we’ve tried to rise above since then: religion, race, sex, class, circumstances beyond our control.

We could find that unity of purpose again - maybe even without a human enemy - but we’d have to give up a lot more than our own personal blisses. Probably some of our rights, freedoms, equality, and protections.
< /DA >

What do you think? Is there anything to this? Can we, conversely, mass determined individuals into anything more than a mindless mob?

I’d tend to agree with your DA points. For me, if the cause were great enough, focused enough, and patriotic enough, I have to believe the old-timey “American Spirit” is still there.

The 20th century proved to be a huge century in America’s history as far as advancement and establishing itself as a world leader. Most of the technological watershed moments rose out of rallying around a good cause with long-term pay-off (e.g. the Manhattan Project, Interstate Highway System, Moon Landing, HD Digital Cable TV…).

It would truly be sad if we can’t overcome our short-sightedness, and “pay-off-now”, “quick-fix” attitude, for establishing yet more (and perhaps even the most significant) technologies and projects that will change the world at large for the better.

Personally, I’m sick of reading about the middle east, our occupation there, mostly because of oil, and our little myopic view that it would be too much hard work, or sacrifice. This time, there’s too much at stake, and I think our science/tech is just about ready. It just needs someone with a laser vision to focus it all over a reasonable, goal orientated timeline.

So, if it’s a mindless mob, with too many dissenting voices, and nothing concrete to focus their resolve on, then perhaps it’s doomed. OTOH, this nation surprises me every so often, and if presented in a way to preserve patriotism, and perhaps unite citizens across bipartisan/racial/sexual/religious lines for the greater good of establishing clean, cheap, renewable energy… the face of global politics, economy and industry would change, hopefully for the better, or at the least, for the next progression of our species.