Ronald Reagan did not think this was a good idea and cut all that funding because the Arabs, at least the ones with oil, were our friends again. I remember my father explaining to me at the time that the free market viability of alternative energy would determine whether or not private industry would develop those technologies.
But one thing put in place at that time also helped make gas cheap: CAFE standards increasing the miles per gallon expected from autos. That ended in 1987, but its effect lasted through the nineties. It worked so well in fact, that Americans then decided it would be a good idea for every family of 3 to buy a 5000 pound SUV with atrocious gas mileage.
When the CAFE standards were attempted to be raised in the nineties, I distinctly remembered the impassioned cries from a certain side of the aisle which said that the ONLY way to increase MPG is to make cars less safe. I'm sure that was the concern and not shilly pimping for certain industries who might be negatively effected by such a move. But I thought it gave short shrift to the engineering capability of Americans.
So now we find ourselves in the same boat. If only our resolve to fix this problem had not dimmed in the intervening time since those gas rationing seventies, those "years [it would take] to have an effect" would be behind us instead of in front of us. Sure we could drill some more for this finite resource, but we are only delaying the inevitable. There is only so much of it and the rest of the world is demanding more of what is left.
The fight with environmentalist was not conceded, it was merely determined that at that time environmental costs outweighed the economic benefits. It was an easier choice to make before $135 barrels of oil were a fact of life. I would be that ANWR oil is as good as gone now.
Price controls would be disastrous because it would, once more, lessen our resolve for energy self reliance. I've seen editorials in the Sun poo-pooing solar energy, and instead promote nuclear energy, without noting that the cost of solar panels has been cut in half in the last quarter century and they have increased in efficiency. I remember, because I never finished the LTTE that I started in response to that staff written editorial.
While I'm not anti-nuclear energy, I don't seem to understand how the Sun's editorialists don't recognize that we might not have nuclear energy if it were not for a massive government subsidy called The Manhattan Project. Perhaps the key is to figure out how to use solar energy to kill people. It would then get all the research money it needs and there would be solar panels on every home within a decade.
I'm of course being slightly sarcastic, but the bottom line is that we, as a nation, made this bed and now we lie in it. Manipulating the price back down might be politically expedient, but we would once again lose our will to shake off our junky-like dependence on other oil producing countries, the majority of whom want to destroy us.(Libya, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, and let us not forget the birthplace of 3/4ths of the 911 hijackers, Saudi Arabia).