THE PRESIDENT. Good morning, everybody. I didn't know this many people worked on Saturday. [Laughter]
We've just completed a very important and helpful conference with, I think, 44 of the 50 Governors on the subject of energy, the interrelationship between the Federal and State governments, and the major responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of Governors. We got good advice, Dr. Schlesinger and I and other Cabinet officers, and the Vice President.
I'd like to introduce to you now for brief comments Governor Reubin Askew, who is chairman of the National Governors' Conference, and then I will respond briefly. And then he and Julian Carroll, who is the chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Governors' Conference, and Dr. Schlesinger will be available to answer your questions.
GOVERNOR ASKEW. Thank you, Mr. President.
On behalf of the Governors represented here today, I'd like to express our appreciation to you and to the Vice President, Dr. Schlesinger, Jack Watson, and the members of the Cabinet who participated in these meetings over the past day and a half.
There are three points, I think, that have been reflected in all of the discussions and the panel reports of this conference. First, there is a shared desire on the part of the States and the Federal Government to come to grips with the energy challenge. Secondly, the only way we are going to do the job effectively, whether in transportation, conservation, coal utilization, or other vital areas, is through cooperation between the Federal and the State Government. Third, the discussions have shown that there are many critical problems that affect individual States and regions more than others.
And that is why it is so important to have a Federal program that is responsive to State needs and concerns, and we feel this meeting marks such a good beginning. In fact, I believe that our meeting this weekend, particularly the meeting with the President this morning in which we spent close to 3 hours, is unparalleled and unprecedented, at least in my memory, where a President has given this much time on a single subject, as important as it is to the Governors.
We had an excellent exchange last night with Dr. Kissinger-[laughter]---excuse me, Dr. Schlesinger--welcome to Washington--and with the members of the Cabinet in what I thought was a very good give-and-take, and then this morning again discussing some vital areas. So, I think it's really been a very constructive and useful discussion.
I might add I was asked by one of the members of the press early on whether or not this was an attempt to use us to help lobby the President's program. That would be totally incorrect because there's been no attempt at any point on this. By and large it's been a very good exchange, not only in the areas that were structured by the staffs of the White House and the National Governors' Conference, but every Governor was given the latitude they would have otherwise asserted anyway to ask any questions on anything concerning energy.
And I truly believe that it marks a beginning, or I should say not the beginning, because we started at our last conference here, but a real dialog between the Federal Government that will be setting a lot of policies, and the States by and large will have to implement them. And I think it's been a very healthy situation.
I certainly am looking forward to some of the remaining discussions we will be having today on the question of welfare. Some of us will be meeting with Secretary Califano, some will be meeting with Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, some of us met yesterday afternoon with Secretary Marshall. So, frankly, it's been a very constructive and productive day and a half for us.
And we thank you, Mr. President, not only for the continuing partnership that you truly have set up. It's really sort of a new thing, I guess, for Governors to find Cabinet members as easy to reach and to be as responsive as they have, and then also, the constant personal attention that the President has given them. So, we certainly thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Reubin. I'd like to respond briefly.
During the first 3 months that I was President we spent a great deal of time in evolving for the first time in our Nation's history a comprehensive approach to energy planning and policy, presented that proposal to the Congress. And we've been very pleased--the Vice President, Dr. Schlesinger, I, and others--at the good progress that's been made in Congress to date.
If we should not get 100 percent of our program this year, we'll be back next year. And I don't think there is any doubt that the Nation faces devastating consequences in the absence of a comprehensive and fair and understandable energy policy.
The implementation of such a policy-oil and natural gas exploration, production of those fuels plus coal, the proper use of atomic power, the increasing use of solar energy and other more exotic types of fuels, the reduction in environmental damage as new exploration is undertaken--these kinds of responsibilities fall to a major degree on the shoulders of Governors and also officials at the local level of government.
My own inclination, when a decision must be reached, would be to give those responsibilities to State and local officials. One of the obvious needs is to prepare for emergencies that might be very damaging to our country if not adequately anticipated.
We would have varying stages of this, from a total rationing plan to an allocation of fuel on the part of the Governors themselves, as was the case in the winter of 1973. But how to change from one responsibility to another .between the Federal, State, and local levels of government and still maintain an efficient operation of the free enterprise system is something that we can't decide unilaterally here in Washington.
I think it's accurate to say that the Governors have been very frank in giving us their own advice, describing their experiences, and also have been very severe in their criticisms of aspects of the program with which they do disagree, and we've all learned in the process.
I and the Vice President have participated fully. Dr. Schlesinger, who will head up a new Department of Energy shortly, has been there throughout all the sessions, plus the Secretaries of Commerce, Labor, Interior, Transportation. And we've all learned in the process.
And I am deeply indebted to Governor Carroll and Governor Askew for having made it possible for this meeting to take place.
I might point out that there was decided this morning between Julian Carroll and Jim Schlesinger to have another meeting later on almost exclusively on the subject of enhanced production of energy, and this will also be of great benefit to us.
I think the country is well served when the different levels of government can cooperate and legitimately share responsibilities under our system of federalism.
Reubin, I thank you again for your support and for your helping to organize this meeting. And, Julian, you've brought together six study groups that have analyzed important facets of the energy program.
Now I'll turn the microphone over to you, Reubin. And I am sure the press will have some questions to propose to you, to Julian Carroll, and to Dr. Schlesinger.
Thank you very much.