I have never held a fondness for President Jimmy Carter.
However, I must give him credit for delivering, during his famous “Malaise” speech in 1979, the framework for a national energy policy that seemed well-reasoned, fair and possible. It included a “diversified portfolio” (my words) of energy sources, exploitation of our own domestic resources and conservation measures, among other things.
The context for the speech, for those of you too young to remember the national situation at the time, was this: recession, stagflation and a fresh Arab oil embargo against the West (the second in six years) that saw oil and energy prices soaring.
What happened to this bold idea?
The same thing that happens most of the time in Washington: partisan wrangling, special-interest positioning and, ultimately, a loss of momentum, political will and public support.
It doesn’t have to be thus. If you agree, send your voice to Congress and President Barack Obama that more than 30 years of bipartisan inaction is inexcusable and the time for a “Rational, National Energy Policy” has come again.
Now, for a look into the past and what might have become a rational national energy policy, read the following excerpt from Carter’s speech:
From the Oval Office on July 15, 1979:
“… All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem …
In little more than two decades we’ve gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines that have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It’s a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.
What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.
Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 — never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade — a saving of over 4½ million barrels of imported oil per day.
Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas. I’m announcing tonight that for 1979 and 1980, I will forbid the entry into this country of one drop of foreign oil more than these goals allow. These quotas will ensure a reduction in imports even below the ambitious levels we set at the recent Tokyo summit (G7 Economic Summit, June 1979).
Point three: To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation’s history to develop America’s own alternative sources of fuel — from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun.
I propose the creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2½ million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so average Americans can invest directly in America’s energy security.
Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation’s first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.
These efforts will cost money, a lot of money, and that is why Congress must enact the windfall-profits tax without delay. It will be money well spent. Unlike the billions of dollars that we ship to foreign countries to pay for foreign oil, these funds will be paid by Americans to Americans. These funds will go to fight, not to increase, inflation and unemployment.
Point four: I’m asking Congress to mandate, to require as a matter of law, that our nation’s utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels, especially coal, our most abundant energy source.
Point five: To make absolutely certain that nothing stands in the way of achieving these goals, I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which, like the War Production Board in World War II, will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape, the delays, and the endless roadblocks to completing key energy projects.
We will protect our environment. But when this nation critically needs a refinery or a pipeline, we will build it.
Point six: I’m proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county and city, and every average American, in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford.
I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing. To further conserve energy, I’m proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense — I tell you it is an act of patriotism.
Our nation must be fair to the poorest among us, so we will increase aid to needy Americans to cope with rising energy prices. We often think of conservation only in terms of sacrifice. In fact, it is the most painless and immediate way of rebuilding our nation’s strength. Every gallon of oil each one of us saves is a new form of production. It gives us more freedom, more confidence, that much more control over our own lives …
You know we can do it. We have the natural resources. We have more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias. We have more coal than any nation on Earth. We have the world’s highest level of technology. We have the most skilled work force, with innovative genius, and I firmly believe that we have the national will to win this war …
Twelve hours from now I will speak again … to expand and to explain further our energy program …”
— President Jimmy Carter
— Chuck Cagara has worked in the financial services industry for the past 30 years. He and his wife, Marie, enjoy photography, which can be seen on their web site at www.MagicalLightPhotography.com.