Although this particular crisis came on suddenly, we have known since 1973-74 that something like this was bound to happen.
The reason for the gas lines and terrible inconvenience here—and the rest of the Nation faces similar problems later this summer and maybe worse next year—is that we have failed to be prepared.
I sent up proposals in 1977 as part of the National Energy Plan to increase production, reduce consumption, and cut back on our reliance on imported oil-COET, industrial users tax, etc.—none of these proposals were passed into law.
A few weeks ago, I announced phased decontrol and asked Congress to pass a windfall tax, a standby rationing plan, a gasoline conservation plan, and two other conservation measures. We have a decent chance on the windfall tax—three of the other four are doubtful.
Too many people are afraid to vote for steps that may be a little unpopular. As a result, we continue to dream while our problems grow worse and worse.
The fact of the matter is that once a shortage is on us, there is no way to create more gas out of thin air. By then, it is too late for immediate relief.
Immediate causes of the problem seem to be:
(1) Less oil than expected coming in because of Iran—which underscores our dependence on imports and thus our vulnerability.
(2) Increased consumption here and nationwide.
(3) My decision that priority in a time of shortage must be given to heat for homes, hospitals, etc., and to food production.
I have taken these steps:
(1) Directed Secretary Schlesinger to immediately determine the facts of this situation, in consultation with State and local government and private leaders-why it developed as it did; what steps can be taken, if any, beyond those I have already recommended to Congress, to alleviate the situation now and in the future. He is to report his findings to me by the end of next week.
(2) Directed the Department of Energy to move immediately to ensure that recent changes in the allocation program to provide additional gasoline to high-use areas, such as southern California, are strictly enforced.
(3) I want to ask drivers in this area to resist the urge to try to keep their tanks full at all times. This only exacerbates the problem, and obviously there is a great need to avoid all nonessential use of gasoline.
But let me repeat, the only way we can avoid increasingly frequent and more severe repetitions of this type of problem is for Congress to forget about the idea that there is some way around the hard fact that we must use less energy and pay more for it—and pass the proposals now before them.
It is time for responsible national leaders in the Congress and elsewhere to forget about extending controls or taking away my power to begin phased decontrol. Those proposals will never pass. They offer no solution to the problems faced by people here in southern California, and they are a waste of time and a distraction from the real task we face.
There are simply no easy answers—no answers that do not involve higher costs for energy and using less energy. That is the truth. To imply otherwise, to waste more valuable time looking for a painless way out can have only one result: more weekends like this here in southern California and all over the country.