The energy issue has been around for decades, so it is very hard for a president to say anything new about it. President Obama’s Oval Office address on the Gulf oil spill is an example. Toward the end, he invoked images of American determination and ingenuity:

The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet.  You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.  And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.  Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children.  Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like.  Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there.  We know we’ll get there.

President Nixon used very similar rhetoric in an Oval Office address on energy on November 7, 1973:

In World War II, America was faced with the necessity of rapidly developing an atomic capability. The circumstances were grave. Responding to that challenge, this Nation brought together its finest scientific skills and its finest administrative skills in what was known as the Manhattan Project. With all the needed resources at its command, with the highest priority assigned to its efforts, the Manhattan Project gave us the atomic capacity that helped to end the war in the Pacific and to bring peace to the world.

Twenty years later, responding to a different challenge, we focused our scientific and technological genius on the frontiers of space. We pledged to put a man on the Moon before 1970, and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong made that historic “giant leap for mankind” when he stepped on the Moon.

The lessons of the Apollo project and of the earlier Manhattan Project are the same lessons that are taught by the whole of American history: Whenever the American people are faced with a clear goal and they are challenged to meet it, we can do extraordinary things.

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