February 14, 2013 by John Crapper
What if we declared war on our fossil fuel dependency and waged a WWII type effort to wean ourselves off of its use and transform our economy to a non-polluting , renewable energy based one? What if we set a goal of being totally free of our need to import foreign oil in 10 years. Impossible you say? If you said yes I would have to say you are very wrong.
A look back at what this country accomplished during WWII clearly shows that these goals are very possible to achieve. All that is required is leadership from the top and a national will to accomplish the task. Let’s travel back in time for a few minutes and see just what we did just 70 years ago. First let’s start with a quote. President Franklin Roosevelt told Congress and his countrymen less than a month after Pearl Harbor.
“It is not enough to turn out just a few more planes, a few more tanks, a few more guns, a few more ships than can be turned out by our enemies. We must out-produce them overwhelmingly, so that there can be no question of our ability to provide a crushing superiority of equipment in any theatre of the world war.”
The First War Powers Act act was signed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and put into law on December 18, 1941, less than two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The act gave the President enormous authority to execute World War II in an efficient manner. The president was authorized to reorganize the executive branch, independent government agencies, and government corporations for the war cause.
Three months after passing the first, the Second War Powers Act was passed. This further strengthened the executive branch powers towards executing World War II. This act allowed the acquisition, under condemnation if necessary, of land for military or naval purposes. In addition, it created methods for war-related production contracting along with adjusting several other aspects of government affairs. Thus began a massive war mobilization effort the world had never before seen.
Roosevelt created the War Production Board in 1942. The purpose of the board was to regulate the production and allocation of materials and fuel during World War II in the United States. The WPB converted and expanded peacetime industries to meet war needs, allocated scarce materials vital to war production, established priorities in the distribution of materials and services, and prohibited nonessential production.
Later in 1943 the Office of War Mobilization was established. This office took over from the earlier War Production Board to shift the country from a peacetime to a wartime economy, sometimes loaning smaller factories the money needed to convert to war production.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt also ordered auto manufacturers to stop producing cars for domestic use. The last cars rolled off the assembly lines in early 1942 as Michigan auto makers converted their factories to make war products such as ambulances, tanks, trucks, Jeeps, bombers, guns, engines and ammunition. The government also stopped the manufacture of refrigerators, radios, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, and phonographs. In 1942 a rationing system was begun to guarantee minimum amounts of necessities to everyone (especially poor people) and prevent inflation. Tires were the first item to be rationed. By 1943 one needed government issued ration coupons to purchase typewriters, coffee, sugar, gasoline, bicycles, clothing, fuel oil, silk, nylon, stoves, shoes, meat, cheese, butter, lard, margarine, canned foods, dried fruits, jam, and many other items. Some items—like new automobiles and appliances were no longer made. The rationing system did not apply to used goods (like clothes or cars).
One of the most noteworthy areas of civilian involvement during the war was in the area of recycling. Many everyday commodities were vital to the war effort, and drives were organized to recycle such things as rubber, tin, waste kitchen fats (the predominant raw material of explosives and many pharmaceuticals) paper, lumber, steel and many others. Popular phrases promoted by the government at the time were “Get into the scrap!” and “Get some cash for your trash” (a nominal sum was paid to the donor for many kinds of scrap items).
Consumer saving was strongly encouraged through investment in War bonds that would mature after the war. Most workers had an automatic payroll deduction; children collected savings stamps until they had enough to buy a bond. Bond rallies were held throughout the U.S. with famous celebrities, usually Hollywood film stars, to enhance the bond advertising effectiveness. Several stars were responsible for personal appearance tours that netted multiple millions of dollars in bond pledges—an astonishing amount in 1943. The public paid 3/4 of the face value of a war bond, and received the full face value back after a set number of years.
The overall result was a dramatic increase in GDP, the export of vast quantities of supplies to the Allies and to American forces overseas, the end of unemployment, and a rise in civilian consumption even as 40% of the GDP went to the war effort. People tolerated the extra work because of patriotism, the pay, and the confidence life would return to normal as soon as the war was won.
What a stunning achievement we accomplished back then! Leadership and national will was all that was required. Our country was transformed. We took on the challenge. We rallied around a cause. We won! This is what we are capable of. This is the possible.
There are many good reasons to justify the declaration of this war; for the President to declare a state of national emergency and invoke the special powers afforded to the office during times of war.
Let me just name a few.
Fossil fuel is compromising our national security, altering our foreign policy priorities and ensnarling us in conflicts around the world.
It is polluting our air, water and land.
It is damaging our health and raising our health care costs.
It is altering our weather patterns and disrupting ecosystems around the globe. It is inhibiting our economic growth.
It is seriously deteriorating our overall quality of life.
Isn’t this list enough proof that a state of war is justified? When a nation’s way of life is threatened isn’t it proper to declare war on the cause of that threat? It is time to get our heads out of our ass, get off of our ass and fight this war!