By Sheril Kirshenbaum | June 19, 2010 6:12 pm

Jon Stewart takes a look back at the intentions of our past eight presidents:


Comments (8)

  1. GM

    The term “energy-independence” is just more greenwash of the worst kind and any discussion around it is a complete waste of time and misses the point entirely.

  2. Sheril –
    That is such a great and funny (and also very depressing) video clip. I missed that episode. I’m glad you shared the clip.


  3. William Furr

    All of these presidents have run aground on the incontrovertible fact that oil has the highest EROEI and combined mass/volume energy density of any liquid fuel we have ever encountered. There’s really nothing else quite like it. We’re sort of screwed. Once it’s gone (actually, not gone but really expensive to get more) we’re going to have to change the way our economy works and how we live our lives.

  4. It’s amazing to me that some of the most thorough and thoughtful analysis of today’s topics and media comes through a show on Comedy Central.

  5. GM

    I didn’t even hear him mention Peak Oil so I don’t know what you’re talking about when you’re saying this is the most through and thoughtful analysis out there…

  6. Passerby

    Interesting that Nixon did more than many others for the environment. He also unilaterally ended biologican weapons research. If not for Watergate, he would have been one of our better presidents (and he is still heads and shoulders above Bush)

  7. GM-

    The bar is set pretty low. It doesn’t take much thought to be the most thoughtful…

  8. The term “energy independence” has been redefined twice since its origin in 1974. It was first redefined by the Reagan campaign in 1980 to mean protectionism; a politically charged word aimed at the Carter administration. The original definition, taken from the context of the 1973 oil embargo, was clear to everyone who had to wait in long lines for gasoline and pay four times more than they paid before the embargo. Independence meant freedom from Arab oil and all the geopolitical complications that came with it.
    “Energy independence” has recently been redefined again by environmental groups to mean independence from all fossil fuels. The USA has more fossil fuels than any other country in the world, so that definition of energy independence will be the equivalent of the USA declaring a fossil fuel embargo against itself.
    When viewed from the original definition of energy independence, the combined efforts of Nixon, Ford and Carter succeeded: In 1980, oil imports began to decline dramatically, and by 1982 imports had decreased over 58% from 1979 levels. This sent the OPEC oil cartel into an economic collapse worse than the Great depression. The world was flooded with cheap oil, below $9 per barrel.
    So, Jon Stewart did not have his facts right. If Ronald Reagan had kept the energy independence policies of Nixon, Ford and Carter, instead of throwing them away and returning to gluttonous foreign oil consumption, the world would be a different place today: Energy Independent.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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