Consumer advocate Ralph Nader came to Arnold to jump-start local interest in the nation's energy policy with a highly charged speech offering equal parts cynicism and idealism.
Nader, as usual, didn't pull any punches in his two-hour speech Tuesday before a packed house in Anne Arundel Community College's Pascal Center. He blasted Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, Congress, the electronic media, the oil, nuclear and auto industries, the university system and economists for leading America's energy policy astray during the last decade.
The loosely organized presentation, dubbed "Energy, Education andEnvironmental Consequences: Activism in the '90s," urged the United States to move away from reliance on fossil fuel and nuclear energy and toward conservation and solar and wind power.
"We are now more dependent on oil than at any time in our history. We now rely on oil for 49 percent of our energy. Carter, when we were at 38 percent, swore we would never be that high again," said Nader, ridiculing the Reagan and Bush energy policies.
"Reagan and Bush's supporters have come disproportionately from the oil industry, and Bush's family is still in the oil industry. They have an antiquated mind-set that says we'll find the oil. We'll get it from the sands of Colorado, from Mexico and Alaska, or from dissolved natural gas. It's just burn, burn, burn, burn."
Of all the public and private interests in the world, Nader said, the only ones he could imagine being hurt by energy conservation are the oil and nuclear energy companies.
But Nader didn'treserve his criticism for the GOP. He also blamed the Democrat-controlled Congress, and particularly Maryland's Mikulski and Sarbanes, for failing to take a high profile on energy conservation.
"They have done very little. Sarbanes, he's been too busy vigilantly watching the savings and loan industry on the Senate Banking Committee to do anything about energy. And Senator Mikulski, very active on civil rights and women's rights, but she says energy is not her specialty, so she doesn't get involved. If we can't get progressives like Mikulski and Sarbanes to take an interest in a good energy policy, then who?"
About 430 people attended the speech, and many of them signed up tolobby for solar energy programs and a consumers' right-to-know bill on energy conservation.
At the end of his talk, one woman stood upto thank Nader for "being my personal hero for the past 25 years."
Nader, pontifical as ever,blessed her with the invocation of the church of consumerism: "May your life be saved by an air bag."