While I was Governor, I signed about, I think, 2,500 bills. But this is my first one to sign as President.
I want to thank, first of all, all the distinguished leaders of the Congress behind me who made possible the passage of this important legislation.
We are now in the midst of a very serious energy crisis brought about not so much by the natural shortage of natural gas, but an inability to distribute it where it's needed in our country.
I asked the Congress just a few days ago to give emergency powers to me and to the Federal Power Commission and others to provide some reasonable assurance to the American people that natural gas could be placed in our country where it's needed most.
We now have literally thousands of factories closed down, about 500,000 workers out of jobs, because of the natural gas shortage.
And this emergency legislation which was passed just tonight will now be signed into law. I'm very proud to have a chance to sign this first law into being because it's important to our people. And I hope it demonstrates a good example of a close harmony and close working relationship that I can maintain with the Congress in weeks to come.
After signing the act, which authorizes emergency powers and action, it's also necessary to sign an Executive order declaring that an emergency does exist. And at this time, I'd like to proclaim and declare that a natural gas emergency does exist within the meaning of Section III of this act and, with this signature, implement the provisions of the act which has just been passed.
The third document that has to be signed is one directing the Chairman of the Federal Power Commission to assume the authorities granted to him in this act and, also, to direct the other members of the Cabinet-level agencies in government to initiate action that will make possible the orderly transfer of natural gas to areas where it's needed.
I might add that last night the President of Mexico, my friend, Mr. Lopez Portillo, notified us that they were transferring large quantities of oil and natural gas to our country. And just a few minutes ago, I had a call from Governor Brown in California, saying that because of very strict conservation measures that had been initiated in California, even though they don't have a severe winter situation there, that 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas would be diverted from California to the eastern part of our country where the shortage exists. And without this legislation the transfer of that gas, in an efficient way, would have been completely impossible. So, immediately, this bill will be beneficial to us all.
By the middle of--I'd say by the 20th of April--we hope to have a much more comprehensive proposal on energy to present to the Congress. And Dr. James Schlesinger, who is assistant to me here in the White House, will be in charge of developing that new energy policy.
So, I'd like to thank all of you again for being so helpful to me and to the country, which is typical of the great attitude that the Congress has always maintained.
Thank you again.