THE PRESIDENT. I'm very sorry to keep you waiting a few minutes. I had meetings this noon with the Prime Minister of Australia, and our discussions lasted a few minutes longer than we had anticipated. Then we had a meeting with the White House Fellows, both the current year's group and those that will be serving in the White House beginning in September.
This is a highly competitive group, as you know. John Gardner is the head of our new selection committee. We had 1,334 people who were considered, and we could only choose 14 of them. They will be working in the White House with the Cabinet members and with the Vice President, and also will have a chance to meet with about 300 leaders of our Government and private industry as well during the next 12 months.
It's a superb program, and as you can see, the competition is very similar to what it is in the advertising industry--[laughter]--when you seek a good client.
I'd like to say a few words, about 3 or 4 minutes, and then spend a few additional minutes answering, perhaps, a few questions that you might have. I know that you've already had a chance to listen to Jim Schlesinger, and perhaps I could add a little to what he said.
We have spent the last 4, 5, 6 months trying to bring some commitment among the American people to correct a longstanding deficiency in the consciousness and in the lifestyle of our great country. We have an impending shortage of energy which can be almost catastrophic if it's not dealt with early and effectively.
I've evolved, along with Dr. Schlesinger and many others, a comprehensive proposal and presented it to the Congress on April the 20th. They are now dealing with its component parts in a very difficult way. I recognize the complexity of it.
The Congress, I think, and I will be much better able to constantly improve our own Nation's husbanding of scarce energy supplies and the more efficient use of those that we consume if the public is aware of the facts. And I can't do this alone.
The first week, I was on television frequently and tried to project to the American people my own deep concerns. But that cannot be a continuing thing. Your cumulative education program can correct this inherent deficiency in our system of government.
I have never had any doubts about the ability of American people to make the right judgment if they are given the facts. And if they can assess those facts, their cumulative decision, in my opinion, will always be for the best interest of our Nation and, in almost every instance, the rest of the world.
We have a major challenge here, because the insidious growth of the problem is not easily detected at this early stage. But the deterioration in our supply levels of all kinds of energy is inevitable.
I know the effectiveness with which you have undertaken public programs in the past at great sacrifice to yourselves. There would have been no way to pay for the beneficial effects that you generated in our Nation in times of war, in combating forest fires, in dealing with the problems of the handicapped, in educating the American people about our veterans' needs, and in many other fields, including the purchase of American Government bonds--things that are beneficial to those who participate but which have to be explained before they can help themselves.
This program, in spite of the great importance of those I've outlined, is likely to be the most important one you've ever undertaken. And I consider you to be my partner in this process and the partner of those in the Congress who now have undertaken this very difficult assignment.
I know that you realize the value of our free enterprise system which is part of our free societal structure, which values the independence of human beings, which recognizes the innate worth of individuals, and which also puts a premium on self reliance and the exertion of extraordinary energies to bring about exemplary results. And the merger which has always been a part of our societal structure between business and the professions, our educational institutions, agriculture, government at all levels, is very important to us now.
I expressed as best I could at Notre Dame a few Sundays ago my complete confidence in the strength and in the future of the democratic societies in the world. In the past, there had been doubts expressed about whether or not we could withstand challenge in the world on a peaceful basis. I have no doubt about it. But it will require a concerted effort by enlightened people and you, as well as any group imaginable, can bring about that desired result.
So, I deeply appreciate your willingness to help and appreciate the fact that you are partners with me and others and pledge to you to do the best I can to make your efforts successful.
Perhaps you might have a comment or a question. I only have a couple of minutes more to be with you, and then I'd like to shake hands with a few people. If not, I'll just start shaking hands now. [Laughter]
Does anybody have a comment or a question?
Q. Mr. President, as you well know, there are diametrically opposed opinions from the scientific community with the information that comes regarding the amounts of potential fuel and so forth, which obviously is very confusing to the American public.
THE PRESIDENT. Yes.
Q. What kind of a filtering process can we use to bring some credibility to probably both sides and still work with the facts?
THE PRESIDENT. I doubt that anyone knows accurately how much oil, gas, uranium, or coal still remains to be discovered. Our own estimates, I felt, were quite accurate and reasonably conservative.
The subsequent analyses that have been done by independent groups have confirmed, basically, that our own estimates are fairly accurate. Nothing would please me more than to find that we had underestimated the reserve supplies of those energy sources.
But regardless of how much is there, there can be no arguing with the fact that waste of those supplies is counterproductive to our Nation's and the world's best interests I don't feel that a tight conservation effort, regardless of the level of supplies, is going to constrain the quality of life of American people. Waste is not good for us.
And whether the oil supplies in our own country are going to continue to drop off 6 percent per year, in spite of an increase in exploration effort of 18 to 21 percent per year, I don't know. We have no way to anticipate what will evolve in the future. But I think that the order of magnitude of error is fairly small. And the rapid increase in demand in an exponential way show that a doubling in supplies of, say, oil or natural gas, will only extend the time period from 5 to 10 years.
So, no matter what the estimates might be as far as accuracy is concerned, the need for conservation is great.
We are trying to approach this question on a multi-energy source basis. One of the reasons that I'm late today is because Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and I and our staff members and Cabinet members had a long discussion about the question of nonproliferation, how to make sure that nations can shift more and more toward atomic power as a source of electricity and energy and, at the same time, eliminate the increase in the number of nations that can develop atomic explosions.
We, the Canadians, Australia, Britain, and others, I think, have turned around world opinion on this subject in the last 6 months. I think it's accurate to say that half a year ago nobody thought that we could reverse the trend toward nuclear explosive proliferation. Now, I think there's a general sense among the consuming and supplier nations of atomic fuels that we can indeed control the additional spread of atomic weapons.
So, the estimates of what we have and what we need, I think, are in doubt. But the need for conserving what we do have and making sure we have an orderly energy policy to assure the best use of the energy sources, I think, cannot be doubted.
We can go on that basis. And if we find that we are pleasantly surprised in the future, every possible effort that we will have expended in ensuring an efficient use of our limited supplies will certainly have been to good purposes. I hope that our estimates are too conservative, but my fear is that they might be too liberal.
Q. Mr. President, I live in the heart of the anthracite region, and the coal reserves there are supposed to be the greatest in the world right now. What 4 years ago was the main source of our economy, today has trickled to practically nothing.
Most of the miners are on pensions, and production is nothing. And up in the section where we had coal, where coal was once king, it is almost believed impossible to get coal back in production. And I'm just wondering--'because Mr. Schlesinger and yourself, sir, are placing a lot of emphasis on the use of coal--are there any plans in being that they may have to stimulate their production?
THE PRESIDENT. You come from the Johnstown area?
Q. No, I come from Hazleton.
THE PRESIDENT. Hazleton. I see.
Well, there's no doubt about the fact that many mines that have been abandoned in the past and even oil wells and natural gas wells that have been abandoned in the past because of economic circumstances are now being reexplored for exploitation because of the increasing cost of energy.
As the cost or value of coal goes up, there is inevitably going to be a reassessment of opening those same mines. We have set tremendous goals for increased coal production in our country. We have coal supplies that are equal to any in the world, as you know.
We have also a commitment on research and development for new kinds of coal combustion--the fluid bed boilers, for instance, is one that I was discussing yesterday-and the assurance that we can 'burn coal now of any quality with the minimum adverse effect on air pollution.
I might say that we now produce about, roughly, 600 million tons of coal per year. Our goal by 1985 is to increase that almost 90 percent, about 85 percent. So, I would guess that in the anthracite region, and also in the other coal regions, that the likelihood is that those coal mines will be reactivated.
I can't answer your question any more specifically than that. But as you know, the value of coal per ton in the last 3 or 4 years has tripled or quadrupled. And this makes it much more effective as a source, even on marginal mined areas, than it was in the past. I think the trend of 'increasing prices is going to continue upward very rapidly.
Maybe one more question.
Q. In addition to energy, what are some of your other priorities for the country?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, we have a series of those priorities, I think, in the domestic field. We had four or five that were important that I outlined to Congress before they convened and before I was inaugurated.
One was to establish rigid standards of ethics in the legislative and executive branches of Government to make sure that there were no inherent, undetected conflicts of interest. I think the House and Senate have moved aggressively on that. So have I.
Another one was giving me authority to reorganize the executive branch of Government. The Congress moved expeditiously on that.
Another one was the establishment of the new Department of Energy. Although it took Lyndon Johnson, with very strong influence in the Congress, 2 full years to get approved a new Department of Transportation-which was quite dissimilar from his original proposal--I think it's accurate to say that in not much more than 3 months, the Congress will have acted expeditiously on a Department of Energy. That's good.
We now have put to the Congress the question of how to deal with the rapidly depleting reserves on social security. We only have 2 more years to go before the disability reserves are depleted, and 4 years after that, we'll lose another major source of payments to retired people. This has to be corrected.
We will present to the Congress before their August adjournment session to go home for the summer a comprehensive welfare proposal. And before the end of this year, in October, when the Congress adjourns before that time, we'll present a comprehensive tax reform proposal.
In foreign affairs--by the way, we've got about 60 or 70 other items on the domestic agenda that I'm going over with the Speaker and the majority leader on. I won't list them all. But in the international field, we've taken some initiatives that I think have restored a lot of the legitimate pride and commitment to the American people.
The human rights issue is one that I consider to be of crucial importance. I think it reestablishes our country as kind of a beacon light for something that's right and decent and proper and humane and compatible with the basic concepts on which our country was founded 200 years ago.
And although we can't ever detect tangible progress measurements, as I've said many times, there's not a national leader on Earth who hasn't now in the forefront of his or her consciousness the question of human rights. "Am I treating, as a government, the citizens of my own nation fairly? Am I subject to legitimate international condemnation?" And whether it's a totalitarian government or a democratic government like our own, we are all now trying to reassess what we are, what we stand for, and how we treat human beings.
We are also moving aggressively to control the spread of atomic weaponry, to cut down on the sale of conventional weapons. We are negotiating with the Soviet Union today in Moscow on a comprehensive test ban.
We've induced Great Britain--and they did it very enthusiastically--to join with us and the Soviet Union in this field. If we three are successful in setting a termination to the testing of nuclear weapons or nuclear explosives, I think we can then hope that France and China might join in with us later on.
We have taken some strong initiatives, some of which have been criticized, in the Middle Eastern area. I've met with all the Middle Eastern leaders and have just received this morning an acceptance from Mr. Begin to come to Washington, I think the 19th of July, to continue those discussions with me. We hope to bring the parties together to consider a resolution of the historic disharmonies in the Middle East which threaten world peace.
We are also trying to go with the British and the Germans, the French, the Canadians, and others to help resolve the Namibian question, formerly Southwest Africa. We've had some recent successes there, and we are cooperating with the British and with the African frontline states in trying to bring some resolution to the Rhodesian question to eliminate the threat of war in southern Africa.
I think we've also strengthened our ties on an individual basis with the nations in this hemisphere. My wife returned recently from a visit with seven nations in South and Central America and in the Caribbean. She went hoping to get an appointment just to meet the heads of those nations. As her own purpose became more clearly defined, and as the publicity preceded her, she spent 7 hours with the Prime Minister of Jamaica and 5 hours with the President of Colombia and 5 hours with the President of Costa Rica, 4 1/2 or 5 hours with the Presidents of Ecuador and Peru, 3 or 3 1/2 hours with the President of Brazil. And this is a good indication that those nations are eager to respond to us if we treat them fairly and as equals and if we genuinely try to understand their own national identity and individuality. In the past, we've had too much of an inclination to look on the Southern Hemisphere as a kind of a conglomerate, homogeneous group.
The last thing I'll point out is that we are trying to find some equitable way to deal with the developing nations as a group. The North-South dialog is very important to us.
So, in these different areas, we have very high goals established for ourselves. And I think if you would like to look over my own concept of what we hope to achieve in foreign affairs, my speech at Notre Dame was very carefully prepared by me and expresses our hopes and aspirations succinctly.
I can only mirror what the American people want and what the American people are willing to accept. But I think we have changed some of those concepts, and I think we've modified our own Nation's position in human rights, the sale of weapons, the reduction in the spread of nuclear explosive capability. And I hope that those efforts will continue to be successful.
I'll answer one more question, and then I'll have to go.
VIEWS ON THE PRESIDENCY
Q. Mr. President, in seeing you and hearing you, I think we have the answer. Are you happy in your new job? [Laughter]
THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I enjoy my new job very much. This is the loneliest week I will have spent since I quit campaigning. My family are all gone, and this is a mighty big house when you're by yourself. That's one reason I'm glad to see you here. [Laughter] But I've enjoyed it. I've gotten a lot of good support.
I think I've chosen a Cabinet that is superlative. There's not a single member of my Cabinet that publicly or privately has ever had any criticism from me. I'm very proud of them. There's not a single change that I would make.
And my relationships with the Congress have been very gratifying. I think when the final tabulations are made and the temporary debate publicity is forgotten, that the accomplishments of this year's congressional efforts will be worthy of approbation and appreciation by the American people.
But I've enjoyed it very much so far. And I think that if we can just keep the American people aware of what our Nation is and what our Nation can be, we'll all have a legitimate sense of pride in having participated. And that means that you are equally responsible with me about achieving those noble aspirations.
Thank you very much.