I just returned from a trip to the suburbs of Pittsburgh where we had a chance to observe from the helicopter the tremendous industrial complex along the Monongahela River. This is a concentration of production and employment that is almost unequaled anywhere else in the country.
The snowfall and severe weather--it was five degrees even up in the morning there--has created very serious problems. The natural gas supplies are down to minimum level.
There are in Pennsylvania, itself, 400,000 people unemployed even before the cold weather came; 90,000 additional employees are out of work because of weather conditions and energy shortages. And we have analyzed--most of the work having been done by Governor Shapp--325,000 additional jobs are in danger of being lost because of energy shortages.
Empty barges are lined up in the river. They can't be carried back down for refilling because of heavy ice conditions.
We have already seen Governor Shapp take strong action. Every school, both private and public, in Pennsylvania is closed. Almost all the churches this morning were empty, with their services cancelled. The thermostats have been ordered reduced to 62 degrees, and the people of Pennsylvania are cooperating. I am sure in the 10 other States that are heavily impacted by the cold weather, they are doing the same.
The points I would like to make here are two-fold. One is this is the first strong indication of a permanent, very serious energy shortage. The crisis might be over in a few days or a couple of weeks, but the energy shortage is going to be with us, is going to get worse instead of better.
And the second point is that we are all in it together. Every household that keeps its temperature too high or that wastes fuel contributes to the unemployment of American people and a damage to our society.
I have moved to ask the Congress for emergency legislation to allocate the scarce supplies of natural gas. That is just a temporary thing. We will work as hard as possible in the next few weeks to evolve for our country a permanent, long-range, comprehensive energy policy.
We are the only developed nation in the world that doesn't have such a policy. It is a very serious handicap to me and to other leaders now in dealing with this first indication of a permanent energy shortage. By April 20, we will have completed the basic energy policy for our country and will go to Congress then for permanent legislation. Members of Congress, industry, consumers groups, my own administration leaders, and others will be involved in the evolution of this policy.
But I want to leave the American people with a clear concept that what every person in this country does--to wear warm clothes indoors, warm underwear, a sweater; to cut down the thermostats very low, even as low as 50 degrees in some instances if the house has an open fireplace that might be substituted--is a very strong contributing factor to the resolution of this problem.
We waste more energy in this country that doesn't have to be wasted than the total amount that we import. And just in homes alone, if we can hold down the temperature and everybody works together, we can meet at least half our needs for natural gas alone.
This trip was very helpful to me. I was able to talk directly with workers who were just about ready to be laid off against their wishes. And I have learned at first hand that we can prevent further unemployment in our country and further suffering if we work together.
Thank you very much.