What a Strong Towns leader would do today

Today I stand in front of you to speak the truth about the brutal reality we face.

As the holder of the most powerful office in the world, I am powerless to stop the environmental catastrophe now unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. As a nation, we are the most economically and militarily dominant county in the history of humanity, yet we are near impotent to fix this broken well and stop the flow of oil onto the beaches of our southern coast. Our Goliath might cannot overcome this pin prick a mile beneath the ocean.

In times like these, we look to our leaders to offer us words of encouragement. We expect to see them stroll the scene of the disaster, mingle with those most impacted, feel their pain. We want to know that someone is working to make things right. And we expect a response that is overwhelming, if not in results, at least in its good intentions.

Well I'm here. I'm walking the beaches, I see the destruction and I'm looking into the eyes of those families that are being directly impacted. But words of encouragement aren't flowing from my mind. What I am feeling now is not shared grief or anxiety. Right now, I've simply had enough.

I'm done being dependent on companies like BP, who have shown time and again that they place their own short-term interests ahead of ours. I no longer want to be beholden to their incompetence.

Nor do I want to be dependent on the competence of the U.S. Government. We can land a man on the moon, but when something like this disaster, or the disaster of Katrina, occurs, we throw billions at an ineffective response. It is not good enough.

I'm done being dependent on the Middle East. On Russia, Venezuala, Angola and every dictator who would be presiding over a worthless pile of sand if it were not for us handing over our wealth for their oil.

I'm done sending our troops into harm's way to protect our "vital national interest", which is really a euphemism for - as former-president George W. Bush said - our addiction to oil.

I'm done spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year protecting oil fields, fighting wars and subsidizing oil exploration and development. I'm done borrowing from China so we compete with them for control of the world's oil reserves.

And I'm done being told that we can simply drill our way out of this problem. Look around. That's not working out too well.

I can't stop this leak, but I can lead us into a new world where this type of leak never occurs, where drilling for oil is no longer necessary. Today we harness our disgust and outrage with this situation and channel it into a new age for America.

Within the next week I will be submitting to Congress legislation that will end the subsidy for oil exploration and drilling. I will also begin the withdrawl of our troops from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Angola, Afghanistan and every other place where they are stationed to protect the flow of oil. All of this money I intend to redirect into a set of key initiatives to break our oil dependency.

First, we're going to stop talking about the Smart Grid and we are going to build it. 

The Smart Grid is the key to a transformation in power production and distribution. It will enable the scaling of numerous methods of energy production that are not viable today. The Smart Grid is the key infrastructure that will allow private sector innovation to blossom. No longer will we be beholden to large, incompetent corporations to provide us electricity in a system that is as dumb as it is wasteful. Our future will be tied to our collective ability to innovate, limited only by our creative abilities as a nation. 

Next, we are going to stop subsidizing the automobile industry. The government is going to sell its stake in General Motors and we are not going to participate in future bailouts of car companies and their related businesses.

We're going follow that with a top-down review of every program and regulation to ensure that it does not encourage or mandate unnecessary driving.

The federal government has created a system of bloated inefficiency and auto-dependency at the local level. If we want true freedom, independence and prosperity, we need to create the framework for our cities to manage their own affairs, and then get out of the way and let them do it. We need to help them learn from each other. And while we end bailouts for failed businesses, we also need to end them for failed local governments.

We are going to refocus our national transportation policy. No more are we going to use federal dollars to build local streets. Doing so only encourages congestion and waste. Federal highway dollars are going to be used for the movement of freight, not for commuting convenience. Local governments can use their own money if they want to tax themselves to provide long commutes. The reality is that they won't because it financially is a losing proposition.

What we are going to do is put America on a course to everywhere build Strong Towns. If we want the sum of our parts to equal a strong nation, each of those parts needs to be strong. It is past time to make this shift.

We may not be able to stop this leak today, but we are not powerless. We must move to a future where this type of catastrophe is no longer the necessary evil of our lifestyle. This disaster is not my Katrina. It is not my Iran Hostage Crisis. If you want a simplistic analogy, this is my 9/11. It is a turning point in our national psyche. A wakeup call to America's exceptionalism.

I intend to take this catastrophe and use it to change our approach to energy, to create a new prosperity and build a stronger nation.


You can continue this Strong Towns conversation by posting a comment or by joining us on Facebook or Twitter.