Hi, everybody. This afternoon I sent to Congress my request for the Emergency Natural Gas Act of 1977. I urged the Congress to act immediately because this month's shortage of natural gas has become a crisis. Everyone in the eastern two-thirds of our Nation realizes that this has been a winter of unprecedented severity. Temperatures far below normal have dangerously depleted our natural gas supplies.
Half the pipelines of our country have already curtailed shipments to the major industrial users. Four thousand plants are now closed. Four hundred thousand people have been laid off because of natural gas shortages. Shipments to homes have been curtailed by two major pipelines. And many other homeowners are now threatened with that same prospect, and the forecast for the rest of the winter is for continuing extreme cold.
The effect of this winter's hardships will spread to all portions of our Nation, and continued layoffs of workers will seriously harm our chances for economic recovery on which we are working so hard.
This legislation, if passed, will permit me to allocate gas to critical areas of our country to meet threats to life and health and to property. The bill will also allow emergency sales so that pipelines which have a healthy reserve supply can transfer those supplies to pipelines that have a severe shortage.
But it is important to be frank. This bill will not end the shortages; it will not improve the weather; and it will not solve the unemployment problem. Its purpose is just to ensure that no portion of our country must go without essential services.
It will also mean somewhat higher prices, since a larger portion--perhaps 2 percent of the total-of the interstate supply will come from emergency sales. Prices will remain the same for the other 98 percent.
Nothing more clearly illustrates the serious consequences of our long delay in creating a comprehensive national energy policy than does this necessity for crisis legislation.
In addition to offering this emergency legislation to the Congress, I directed Dr. James Schlesinger, who will answer questions in a few minutes, to develop a comprehensive national energy policy for submission to the Congress at an early date.
There is one other step that we must take. I again ask every American to lower the thermostat settings in all homes and buildings to no more than 65 degrees during the daytime and to a much lower setting at night. This single step, if carried out by all our people, can eliminate half the current shortage of natural gas and put thousands of Americans back to work.
I have turned the thermostat down in the White House and have ordered it reduced in all Government buildings. And I ask everyone in the country to cooperate so that no one will have to go without crucial heat.
Finally, I must say to you quite frankly that this is not a temporary request for conservation. Our energy problems will not be over next year or the year after. Further sacrifices in addition to lowering thermostats may well be necessary. But I believe this country is tough enough and strong enough to meet that challenge. And I ask all Americans to cooperate in minimizing the adverse effect on the lives of our people.
Thank you very much.
I would like to introduce now Dr. James Schlesinger, who is an assistant to me for energy measures. He will answer questions concerning this legislation and other questions concerning energy and energy policy.