Schoolhouse Rock "Energy Blues" Now 30 - An Annotated Perspective

Thirty years ago, a certain generation digested large amounts of Schoolhouse Rock on their way from being Sugar Bomb Eaters to 9-to-fivers; many a happy moment was spent staring at the glass screen figuring out how a bill becomes law, what the heck an adverb is, and yes, the fundamentals of energy conservation, videoed above. Watching it may blend a laugh and a tear for some, akin to that Crying Indian commerical. What was the singing Earth right about? Let's take a look at the lyrics.

[Earth starts singing]


Sometimes I think I'm runnin' out of energy
Seems like we use an awful lot for
Heatin' and lightin' and drivin'
Readin' and writin' and jivin'
Energy ... You'd think we'd be savin' it up.

[The singing earth was a point here - I guess hindsight is 20/20 but we probably should have saved more energy, divesting ourselves from salad shooters and jet-skis sooner. Live and learn.]

Energy ... You can get it by dammin' up a river
Energy ... A windmill can make the breeze deliver
But even with millin' and dammin'
Our needs are so much more demanding
For energy ... We have to use some kind of fuel.

[What a Portent Precocient - Mr. Globey realizes that we can't fulfill our energy needs with just hydro and wind, we need to burn something. Points off for no mention of solar or geothermal though.]

Chop, chop, chop, the cavemen used wood to start their fires.
Chop, chop, chop, they made all the tools that they required.
Chop, chop, chop, inventions got more and more inspired.
The fires got higher and higher,
And clearings got wider and wider.
Energy ... They were burnin' 'bout all their wood up.

[What a synopsis! Yes; historically, people mostly burned wood and used same to get their technological fix. So use more, more, more, until all the wood was gone. Sound familiar?]

Then one day men discovered that coal would do it better
Miners dug, and it looked like it might just last forever.
It seemed like the final solution.
It started the Industrial Revolution.
Energy ... We could just keep on diggin' it up.

[Ahhh, yes, coal. One can just imagine a bunch of industrialists in a room now:
Industrialist 1 - "We've burned down all the trees!"
Industrialist 2 - "Look, man, get a hold of ye-self. Instead of chopping, we'll dig!"
Industrialist 1 - "Ah yes, chop bad, dig good. The public will love it. What a simple message."
The sarcasm was not lost on me. But he's pushing the boundaries of snarkiness here, IMO]

Now in 1859 - way out in western Pennsylvania -
A man had built a rig that got some laughs from folks who came there
But suddenly, a mighty roar came up from under the ground.
And soon a gusher, gushin' oil, soaked all who stood around.
Now no-one knew, when that gusher blew,
The petroleum years were on us,
Or that so many cars and trucks would come to cause a crisis.

[Adding ins. in inj. Don't tell me - we're going to be just as clouted, developing this new resource?]

Energy ... We're looking to try and find some new kinds.
Energy ... Exploring to try and make a new find.
Nuclear and thermal and solar,
If we miss we'll get colder and colder.
Energy ... We've gotta stop usin' you up.

[Finally, we get to the other good sources - nuclear and thermal and solar. Too little, too late - should have been up near the top! And I don't like the fear mongering ("If we miss we'll get colder and colder...") and folksy-lecture bit ("We've gotta stop usin' you up.") Speak the King's English please.]

So don't be cross when momma says turn that extra light out.
Just turn it off till we find us a fuel that never runs out.
If everyone tries a bit harder,
Our fuel will go farther and farther.
Energy ... We're gonna be stretchin' you out.

[More preaching and fanatical idealism. Find a fuel that never runs out? Egad, a senile fogey you be. Ok, Gramps - A for originality , B+ for effort, B for message. Not bad for something 30 years out of date.]

More Energy Blues

No such thing as Clean Coal
Solar panels for your house
Geothermal energy - renewable's poor cousin

Related Content on