Within two weeks Huffington had deposited $30,000 in a nonprofit account and accepted the pro bono services of a director and producer. The hypothetical ad campaign is poised to become a reality.
"I think [the column] touched a chord because of that link between patriotism and what are we really being asked to do," Huffington says. "The fact is, we're not being asked to do anything. We're at war. During the Second World War, people were asked to conserve. People truly do want to do something."
Don't tell that to Jerry Taylor, director of natural-resource studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "People who think the American people want to be told to do things got their butts kicked in the last election," he says.
Recent history lends some credence to his argument. Many political analysts date Mr. Carter's slide in popularity to the famous 1977 speech in which he dressed in a sweater to symbolize the virtue of lowering the thermostat.
But others say Carter's mistake was couching energy use in terms of sacrifice rather than common sense. "[Carter] unfortunately used the term 'conserve' and appeared in a sweater and made people think that energy conservation meant starvation or discomfort," says Amory Lovins, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Golden, Colo.
Carter may have lost the next election, says Mr. Lovins, but the energy policies he introduced had an impact. More fuel-efficient cars helped lead to a 15 percent drop in oil use between 1979 and 1985, Lovins says. Oil imports fell 87 percent.
"If we had kept on [following Carter's policies] one more year, after 1985 we wouldn't have needed a drop of oil from the Persian Gulf," says Lovins.
Instead, in the Reagan era those gasoline standards, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards, were rolled back. Gas mileage declined. Oil imports soared.