The way to get Americans to take action? Appeal to their patriotism.
Historically in times of war, the US government has successfully gotten citizens to join the armed forces, to buy war bonds, and to accept rationing by appealing to their patriotism.
The Obama administration should begin by asking Americans to curb their oil use. Fighting global warming entails curtailing oil consumption. Given the location of the world's petroleum reserves, when Americans pull out their credit cards at the gas pump or pay for their heating fuel, they indirectly fund Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nuclear and missile programs, enrich Muammar Qaddafi (while he rants at the UN against the United States, and give assistance to Vladimir Putin as he threatens American interests in the Caucasus and Central Europe.
Other beneficiaries of American oil imports include Hugo Chávez's Venezuela and Ahmad al-Bashir's Sudan – not to mention Al Qaeda, whose financial backers include many who would be penniless were it not for fossil fuels exports. At the very least, without their petroleum exports all these countries would be far weaker.
Even if the oil sold in the US comes from Alaska, Texas, or allies like Norway, American demand drives up the price of the commodity, thereby pumping huge flows of dollars into the treasuries of its enemies.
On the other hand, when the US invests in alternative energy sources and energy conservation, it helps spur technological innovation in America and other advanced liberal democracies.
A "post-oil" world is one where the major winners will include California's high-tech industries, Japan's battery manufacturers, and German solar panel companies, while the losers will be the oil exporting autocracies of the Middle East and Russia.
Refocusing the climate debate would significantly increase the chances of success. If Americans start thinking about their dependence on oil as equivalent to providing assistance to Iran, Venezuela, and Libya, more citizens will be open to looking for and practicing alternatives.
The public needs to understand that global warming policy – and its attendant sacrifices – are less about protecting the polar bear, and more about protecting the American people from losing economic boosts to foes that thrive on our oil exports.
This type of message has broad appeal and definitely needs to be repeatedly hammered into the American psyche...
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