It’s good to conserve energy. Pigging out on the Earth’s resources is neither responsible nor common sensical. It costs money to chew through fuel of any kind.
Yet this idea of conserving energy is a rather new one that required a massive shift in public thinking—and getting the public to change can be a big challenge.
I was born in 1948 and grew up in Southern California at a time when we learned to hide under our desks in case of an atomic bomb blast. We often stayed home for sig alerts: days when the LA Basin smog was so thick it hurt your eyes and shortened your breath. On hot days it was challenging to see clearly across the street and the San Gabriel mountains had vanished in a white haze. Then the government mandated catalytic converters. My parents and their friends were horrified—up in arms at the prospect of higher car prices and the threat of bankrupting Detroit.
Both my parents were staunch Republicans, devastated when Barry Goldwater didn’t make it to the presidency. And they, like their peers, succumbed to negative rhetoric paid for by the automobile companies worried more about their bottom lines than the health of those driving their cars.
Think about the massive shift in public thinking switching to catalytic converters demanded: every new car more expensive, elimination of leaded gasoline—and all in the name of some unseen problem called air quality.
Today you can see the San Gabriels and breathe better in Southern California.
It took a tsunami of words and legislation to convert the poisonous exhaust fumes of the 1960s to cleaner burning versions of today.
But the biggest changes were yet to come.