When it comes to energy policy in the U.S., not very much has changed since President Jimmy Carter declared more than three decades ago that achieving energy independence was "the moral equivalent of war."

Today, Carter had his “I-told-you-so-moment” in testimony on energy policy before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, giving lawmakers a bit of a history lesson (while acknowledging that some of them were also in government then).

Two weeks after becoming president, Carter famously appeared in a cardigan and urged energy conservation on a resistant American public. Ultimately, that and other efforts led to a more energy-efficient economy as well as cutting oil imports in half by 1982.

But just a few years later, the U.S. became even more dependent on imported oil and many of the alternative energy efforts inaugurated during his administration—solar thermal power plants, electric cars and biofuel from algae—limped along until finally getting more traction recently.

Carter reminded the lawmakers that more than 30 years ago, his administration pushed successfully for legislation to penalize gas-guzzling cars, force utilities to encourage energy conservation and mandated better-insulated buildings and more efficient electric motors and appliances. All of which are efforts duplicated by the Obama administration more recently.

While giving the senators the energy security history lesson they requested, he also detailed some of the insights gleaned from his globe-trotting in recent years. For instance, he noted that China is building more efficient coal-fired power plants while the U.S. has yet to build a single power plant demonstrating carbon capture and storage technology and Brazil's biofuel industry has far surpassed American efforts.

"We also lag far behind many other nations in the production and use of windmills, solar power, nuclear energy, and the efficiency of energy consumption," he noted.

He ended with a reminder that the decisions we make today will determine our place in the hierarchy of nations, the health of our economy and, ultimately, the very fate of the planet. The global climate is changing but the debate in Washington, D.C., remains largely the same.