THE PRESIDENT. Good afternoon, everybody.
I would like to open by commenting on one very important issue, and that is the subject of energy, and then spend the rest of our time answering your questions about subjects that you choose.
Almost exactly 9 years ago, I presented to the Nation and to the Congress a description of the energy problems and a proposal for the evolution of a national energy policy that I thought would be adequate. After 18 months of debate, the Congress passed the national energy act, and it encompasses roughly 50 or 60 percent of what we did propose. It's a major and a very important beginning.
Since then, the energy problems that I described have gotten worse, not better. Recent interruption of the Iranian oil supply, the increases in OPEC oil prices-which I think are a prelude of what is going to be the case for the next number of years—have emphasized the extreme importance of our country taking firm action.
We must conserve all the energy that we can. We must shift toward a dependence on domestic production of petroleum products more than we have in the past and, of course, shift toward alternative fuel supplies on a more permanent basis.
I have a great confidence in American technology and American vision, American innovation, American courage, and the will of the American people to resolve this question ultimately in a satisfactory fashion.
But for the immediate future, we will continue to be dependent upon petroleum. And the prices and supplies of petroleum products are under the control of a cartel whose interests are not always compatible with our own. And, as you know, we now import about 50 percent of our total oil supplies.
Next week, I'll make a statement to the American people and to the Congress on this subject. And I hope and believe that the American consumers, the American energy industry, and the Congress will join in with me in a firm partnership to alleviate the threat to our Nation's economy and security and to resolve this issue as best we can.
I would be glad to answer your questions now on any matter.
Q. Mr. President, I am from New London, Connecticut, and that means nuclear accidents or whatever—I have to ask an ex-submariner about submarines.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. As the cost overruns on the 688 class and Trident submarine amounted into the hundreds of millions of dollars, there have been voices in the Congress and in the Navy that have said that the submarines are overdesigned and that the Navy would be better off with a large number of smaller, less expensive boats. Do you think that the 688 and Tridents under their current dimensions are cost effective, or do you think the Navy would be better off spending the available dollars for more, smaller. submarines?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, it costs so much to change designs, as you know, that I'm not sure that even a slightly smaller or different design would give us, in the long run, more submarines or more effective submarines.
As an ex-submariner one who was in the initial program, I think I'm personally biased. But I think that if there ever has been any one single weapons system that has ensured our Nation's integrity and security, it has been the nuclear submarines, with a strategic weapon capability.
It's a great insurer of the peace. And I think the Trident and the 688 combination, as far as the immediate future is concerned, are ...
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