Jon Stewart teaches a history lesson on oil dependence

How sad it is that we still have this problem.

President Obama called for “America to seize its own destiny” and stop depending on foreign oil in his Oval Office speech Tuesday. But Obama is just the latest in a long line of presidents who have tried to get the U.S. off of oil and failed.

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart presented a little history lesson Wednesday to remind his viewers just how hard it is to beat the oil addiction.

Unlike many of his predecessors, Obama is one of the few presidents who has been willing say that oil is a finite resource.

“For decades we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny,” Obama said in his Tuesday speech.

But the call to end the country’s dependence on oil isn’t a new one. In his 2006 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush said, “This country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.”

“But back then in 2006 we didn’t do it because oil dependence had at that point only entangled us in two simultaneous wars,” Stewart noted. “But now it’s gotten us into two wars and a giant spill. That’s the push we needed,” he said sarcastically.

“I wish we had taken care of this energy problem ten years ago when there was no war and the economy was great. That would have been a great time to develop a long-term energy strategy,” said Stewart.

At the time, President Bill Clinton did have a similar idea. “We need a long-term energy strategy to maximize conservation and the maximize the development of alternative sources of energy,” Clinton said in 2000.

“And we would have done it too if he hadn’t gotten distracted by that other spill,” Stewart joked.

Perhaps Clinton was just echoing his predecessor. In 1988, President George H.W. Bush said, “There is no security for the United states in further dependence on foreign oil.”

“I bet the four guys before him would have gotten us off of foreign oil too if they had thought of it,” Stewart continued.

But they did.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan told a joint session of Congress, “We will continue supportive research leading to the development of new technologies and more independence of foreign oil.”

In a 1979 speech, President Jimmy Carter appeared outraged at the “intolerable dependence on foreign oil.”

President Gerald Ford touted “standby emergency programs to achieve the independence we want” in 1975.

“We’ll break the back of the energy crisis. We will lay the foundation for our future capacity to meet America’s energy needs from America’s own resources,” President Richard Nixon said in his 1974 State of the Union address.

Stewart was nearly speechless failure of the last eight presidents. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me eight times, am I a f**king idiot?” he wondered.

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